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US DRIVE releases comprehensive cradle-to-grave analysis of light-duty vehicle GHGs, cost of driving and cost of avoided GHGs

The US DRIVE Cradle-to-Grave Working Group has published the “Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of US Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies” Argonne National Lab Report.

The study provides a comprehensive lifecycle analysis (LCA), or cradle-to-grave (C2G) analysis, of the cost and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a variety of vehicle-fuel pathways, as well as the levelized cost of driving (LCD) and cost of avoided GHG emissions. The study also estimates the technology readiness levels (TRLs) of key fuel and vehicle technologies along the pathways. The study only addresses possible vehicle-fuel combination pathways—i.e., no scenario analysis.

Co-authors are from Argonne National Laboratory; the US Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies, Fuel Cell Technologies, and Bioenergy Technologies Offices; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Electric Power Research Institute; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; General Motors; Chevron; and Ford.

C2G GHG emissions of various vehicle-fuel pathways. Analysis was performed using GREET2014, and vehicle and fuel pathways are constrained to those deemed scalable to approximately 10% of the LDV fleet.

The black lines in the figure represent the C2G GHG emissions for the Current Technology case. The red lines show lower GHG emissions realized in the FUTURE TECHNOLOGY case due to vehicle efficiency gains, such as lightweighting and higher powertrain efficiency.

Combining vehicle efficiency gains with low-carbon fuels (lines at head of each arrow), the GHG reductions generally more than double compared to vehicle gains alone. Elgowainy et al. Click to enlarge.

The C2G analysis spans a full portfolio of midsize light-duty vehicles (LDVs), including conventional internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs); flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs); hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs); plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs); battery electric vehicles (BEVs); and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The selected fuel pathways were constrained to those deemed to be scalable to at least approximately 10% of LDV fleet demand in the future.

The modeling of various vehicle technologies, current and future, included powertrain configuration, component sizing, cost, and fuel economy and was performed with the Autonomie model. Autonomie is a modeling package that uses performance attributes of vehicle components to size components for a given vehicle configuration and vehicle performance attributes (e.g., time to accelerate from 0–60 mph, maximum speed, etc.), and to simulate fuel economy over various driving cycles.

These fuel economies served as an input for the analysis. The component sizes and vehicle fuel economy results were incorporated into the GREET model to evaluate GHG emissions of vehicle production and fuel cycles, respectively, while the vehicle costs were used to evaluate the LCD.

In evaluating the vehicle-fuel combinations, the study considers both low-volume and high-volume (Current Technology) cases (nominally 2015) and a high-volume (Future Technology) lower-carbon case (nominally 2025–2030).

Findings. One of the key observations from the report is that large GHG reductions for light-duty vehicles LDVs are challenging and require consideration of the entire lifecycle, including vehicle manufacture, fuel production, and vehicle operation. Larger GHG reductions for LDVs are achieved with both low-carbon fuels and vehicle efficiency improvements.

Under the Current Technology case, conventional gasoline ICEVs model to have C2G GHG emissions of slightly more than 450 g CO2e/mile (grams of CO2 equivalent per mile). Gasoline HEVs can reduce C2G GHG emissions to below 350 g CO2e/mi, as can other advanced vehicle technologies, such as PHEVs, BEVs, and FCEVs.

Lower GHG emissions are realized in the Future Technology case across all vehicle platforms due to vehicle efficiency gains, such as lightweighting and higher powertrain efficiency. Such improvements lead to C2G GHG emissions of about 350 g CO2e/mi for gasoline ICEVs and below 250 g CO2e/mi for HEVs, PHEVs, FCEVs, and BEVs.

Combining vehicle efficiency gains with low-carbon fuels, the GHG reductions generally more than double compared to vehicle gains alone. For example, gasoline ICEVs running on gasoline developed from pyrolysis of forest residues are modeled to have C2G GHG emissions of about 140 g CO2e/mi, while FCEVs running on hydrogen produced from biomass gasification have emissions of about 115 g CO2e/mi. BEVs running on wind electricity and FCEVs running on hydrogen from wind electricity have C2G GHG emissions of about 50 g CO2e/mi or less.


Levelized cost of driving (LCD). Top: Current Technology case. Bottom: Future Technology case. LCD is the sum of the amortized net vehicle cost per mile (after considering residual resale value) and the fuel cost per mile. The uncertainty bars reflect the range of vehicle and fuel costs considered for analysis.

Vehicle cost is the major (60–90%) and fuel cost the minor (10–40%) component of the LCD when projected at volume. Elgowainy et al. Click to enlarge.

Not surprisingly, the report finds that high-volume production is critical to the viability of advanced technologies. In the high-volume, Future Technology case, the incremental costs of advanced technologies are significantly reduced, reflecting estimated R&D outcomes.

The study also finds that ow-carbon fuels can have significantly higher costs than conventional fuels. However, vehicle cost is the major (60–90%) and fuel cost the minor (10–40%) component of LCD when projected at volume.


Cost of avoided greenhouse gas emissions. Top: Current Technology case. Bottom: Future Technology high volume case. Elgowainy et al. Click to enlarge.

US DRIVE—United States Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability—is a government-industry partnership among the US Department of Energy; USCAR, representing FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors; five energy companies (BP America, Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Phillips 66 Company, and Shell Oil Products US); Tesla Motors; two utilities (Southern California Edison and Michigan-based DTE Energy); and the Electric Power Research Institute.


  • A. Elgowainy, J. Han, J. Ward, F. Joseck, D. Gohlke, A. Lindauer, T. Ramsden, M. Biddy, M. Alexander, S. Barnhart, I. Sutherland, L. Verduzco, T.J. Wallington (2016) “Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of U.S. Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025-2030) Technologies” ANL/ESD-16/7



Interesting but difficult to evaluate without knowing the exact inputs used.

FCEVs with H2 from excess REs such as Hydro/Wind may be on par with or slightly better than BEVs?

HEVs seem to be doing OK

Brian Petersen

There is a failure to explain acronyms here. What is the difference between a "BEV90" and a "BEV210"? What is the difference between a "PHEV10" and a "PHEV35"?

One thing is plenty apparent: many of the alternatives are pretty costly and in some cases for rather marginal improvements, and if the end user isn't paying then the taxpayer will be paying, and either way, that's a tough sell!


"There is a failure to explain acronyms here. What is the difference between a "BEV90" and a "BEV210"? What is the difference between a "PHEV10" and a "PHEV35"?"

The numbers refer to the range in miles. A measure of the size of the battery.


Big batteries are not shining in this analysis.

No doubt fans will seek to argue that there is bias in the assumptions due to the make up of the contributors.

Well,maybe, but it does serve to show that that is nothing compared to the bias of those who have routinely claimed three times the efficiency of BEVs, and it illustrates nicely the innumerate and self serving twaddle that always was.

Proper analysis was always going to show it as a far closer run thing.


Batteries will never make sense according to these charts even at scale.
Hybrids and plugins look far better with fuel cells slightly more expensive.
Cant believe gasoline and diesel remain the most affordable since they are not avoiding any emissions just smaller motors.
Cost of avoidance of GHG does not add up on this chart.
The subsidies may redistribute those lifecycle costs.
Especially if we end subsidizing oil or even better a CO2 tax.


It would appear the fermentation of corn stover E85 fuel powering hybrids, mild hybrids, or plugins would be the least expensive path forward with best GHG reductions. Where is that analysis? Flex fueled vehicles offer poor performance for optimized E85 ICE. Cummings optimized E85 engine even without hybrid technology was rated to reduce GHG emissions 85%. Knowing the rate of improvement upon the ethanol processing plants, agriculture practices, and optimized E85 engines; well, I think the US Drive team missed the boat on this one. For example biomass boilers for ethanol process plants are starting to utilize biomass for lowing carbon rating by 30%. The energy return on corn ethanol sits at 2:1 mainly because of processing plant energy consumption. A report estimates that ratio could be improved to 427:1 if these plants adapted CHP equipment. Also, wind and solar can power these processing plants for lower carbon rating. Processing plants located on high wind energy zones.


Also, there is no technical reason why future use of ethanol couldn't drop to negative GHG emissions. For example the cellulosic processors utilize huge anaerobic digesters that supply much of their energy as does the lignan leftovers. They are generating excess power for the grid or power another traditional corn ethanol plant. It's popular and efficient for these corn plants to sell wet DGs to local farmers. What is to stop them from processing farm waste within ethanol's digesters? One round trip for large environmental improvement.

Ethanol conversion efficiency continues to improve. Cellulosic expects large gains even converting the lignan for chemical or fuel use. Coproducts of these processes continue to develop more value for corn use. Scientist continue to improve carbon sequestration rating of soil and root grow zone. GMO crops are expected to improve this activity. Sorghum varieties are expected to produce 1,000 gallon per acre, animal feed, and soil leaf matter. If or when farm tractors offer E85 engines, I expect this to become popular per the high torque and low cost. No high pressure injection system needed. Ethanol can produce similar torque as diesel, but do it in an engine half the size. Technology for fertilizer via the hydrogen process of renewal power seems to be capable. Drones and GPS technology will improve efficiency of farms as does the no till practices and especially the carbon sequestration and low water requirements of compost. The biocoal processes for ethanol or gas definitely would put farming carbon rating up a few notches. Powering farms, vehicles, and process plants on renewable energy or fuel would add into the math. I sure would think if GW were to become a priority the nation could flip the switch to make ethanol carbon negative and do so at a cost savings compared to current competition. There is no technological reason an E100 engine couldn't be developed. It doesn't require breakthrough technology. Just the basics.


LMAO!!! You guys took this "study" seriously??? No matter which side you support, surely you can see this is INCREDIBLY flawed...so badly as to be farcical.

They have made so many erroneous assumptions that the entire paper is meaningless. Reading this is like saying: It's sunny and warm today...so it will ALWAYS be sunny and warm. LOL

Look at one simple example: They claim the cost per mile for the BEV210 is $0.52/mile when simple math tells you that ~$35K BEV210 vehicles are coming available this year. With a very low assumption of 150,000 miles on the vehicle for the life time, that gives you $0.23/mile. And with battery prices dropping, they ignore that "future vehicles" will do this for closer to $20K.

They don't state their assumptions on anything...take for example: Ethanol. Ethanol has been debunked by SO MANY peer reviewed papers that the only people who claim it's good are paid for studies directly by the corn-ethanol industy.

Seriously, this paper is a waste of the bits floating around the internet. Completely laughable.


It's an Argonne National Lab Report. They are one of our primer labs. Also, it's a life cycle analysis. They know a lot of ethanol and have a well to wheels analysis to rate the fuel that is herald as the standard rating system. It's downloadable for all to play with inputs.

You can download above post report in its entirety. This is just a summary of findings. Most up to date analysis of light duty vehicles has BEV not that impressive unless the grid is powered by carbon free energy. For the ownership cost the hybrid is a better deal for emissions. To that extent I can add fueling up the vehicle with E85 especially cellulosic ethanol would more than double the improvement. I don't think grid power vehicles could ever catch the benefit. However, I would think the BEV will become popular for metro short trip transportation. Especially per the ride share or autonomous taxi public transportation system.


JOKE. Yes, I'm very familiar with Argonne's "work" in this area. Their work consist mostly of a spreadsheet with a lot of pomp and circumstance built around it.

You pick the assumptions, no matter how moronic, and print out all kinds of "science" LOL

You can assume that batteries cost $10,000/kWh and that ethanol is made from unicorn farts and they actually emit NEGATIVE CO2!!!

When you take the first numbers they publish and see that they're rubbish, you know it's just another group of morons filling out the assumptions to spit out whatever results they want. SERIOUSLY, it's just some spreadsheets guys and you can assume anything you want.


Love your outrageous comments.


You're deluding yourself. This is not a science. They are not coming up with a mathematical proof of an absolute.

This is an exercise where they say: "Hmmmm, I think batteries cost $500/kWh in 2014 and I don't believe Tesla's prediction that they'll get below $100 or GM's claim they're already at $145 for 2016 so therefore....".

Seriously, do you think they're dealing with absolute facts? They make wild assumptions that they frankly pull out of their A$$ and then put dozens of pretty graphs in a report based on those assumptions. Then they publish it and people like you don't stop and put into context what you're seeing. This is no different than someone looking "on paper" and claiming that the Patriots will win next year's Super Bowl.

The only reason I blame them is because they're essentially multiplying 2.4 x 2 and claiming it equals 2.838795373. They're implying accuracy that's not there by putting pretty graphs and stating their case like it's absolute.

I blame people like you, for not knowing the difference and then running around telling everyone you've found some "science" that supports your view.

Stop for a minute and think about what they're ACTUALLY doing here.


I meant to say: " 2.4 x 2 and claiming it equals 4.838795373"

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