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Lifecycle analysis

[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

U-M study finds crop-based biofuels associated with net increase in GHGs; falsifying the assumption of inherent carbon neutrality

August 25, 2016

A new study from University of Michigan researchers challenges the assumption that crop-based biofuels such as corn ethanol and biodiesel are inherently carbon-neutral—i.e., that only production-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be tallied when comparing them to fossil fuels.

In an open-access paper published in the journal Climatic Change, the researchers conclude that once estimates from the literature for process emissions and displacement effects including land-use change are considered, US biofuel use to date is associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions.

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Argonne team finds significant albedo warming effect for switchgrass ethanol

August 11, 2016

One of the key points of contention over the climate benefit of biofuels is the impact of land use change (LUC) associated with biofuel feedstock production. LUC results in biogeochemical (e.g., soil organic carbon) and biogeophysical (e.g., surface albedo, evapotranspiration, and surface roughness) changes. Of the biogeophysical factors, surface albedo has been considered a dominant effect at the global scale.

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has now quantified land use change (LUC)-induced albedo effects for three major biofuels in the US, using satellite data products for albedo and vegetation observations. Published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the analysis indicates that the land use change (LUC)-induced albedo effect is small for corn and miscanthus ethanol, but is significant for switchgrass ethanol, which is driven by the types, locations, and intensities of various land conversions to these biofuel feedstocks.

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Ford, LG Chem team reports 1st cradle-to-gate LCA for mass-produced battery pack in commercial BEV; cell manufacturing key GHG contributor

June 29, 2016

A team from Ford’s Research and Innovation Center and LG Chem’s Corporate R&D group has reported the first cradle-to-gate (i.e., the factory gate—before delivery to the consumer) emissions assessment for a mass-produced battery in a commercial battery electric vehicle (BEV)—the lithium-ion battery pack used in the Ford Focus BEV. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers based their assessment on the bill of materials and energy and materials input data from the battery cell and pack supplier (LG). They calculated that the cradle-to-gate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the 24 kWh Ford Focus lithium-ion battery are 3.4 metric tonnes of CO2-eq (140 kg CO2-eq per kWh or 11 kg CO2-eq per kg of battery). Cell manufacturing is the key contributor accounting for 45% of the GHG emissions.

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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

June 09, 2016

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.

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Argonne rolls out updated version of AFLEET alternative fuels and advanced vehicles analysis tool

May 10, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory is releasing an updated version of its AFLEET tool to reflect the latest advances in alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies and updated emissions data. Sponsored by the DOE Clean Cities program, AFLEET (Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation Tool) is a free, publicly-available tool that provides users with a roadmap for assessing which types of vehicles and fuels are right for them. The 2016 AFLEET Tool and user guide are available online. Although anyone can download and use the tool, AFLEET was designed for managers that purchase and maintain a fleet of vehicles.

The latest version includes, for the first time: gaseous hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; state-based (rather than national-based) fuel pricing, private station fuel pricing and fueling infrastructure costs. Updates to existing inputs include new light-duty vehicle costs; vehicle air pollutant emission factors derived from the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions modeling system, MOVES 2014a; and petroleum use and greenhouse gas and relative air pollutant emissions from the 2015 GREET model, Argonne’s leading fuel life-cycle analysis model that is now in its twentieth year.

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Roland Berger study outlines integrated vehicle and fuels roadmap for further abating transport GHG emissions 2030+ at lowest societal cost

April 30, 2016

A new study by consultancy Roland Berger defines an integrated roadmap for European road transport decarbonization to 2030 and beyond; the current regulatory framework for vehicle emissions, carbon intensity of fuels and use of renewable fuels covers only up to 2020/2021.

The study was commissioned by a coalition of fuel suppliers and automotive companies with a view to identifying a roadmap to 2030+ to identify GHG abatement options at the lowest cost to society. The coalition comprises BMW, Daimler, Honda, NEOT/St1, Neste, OMV, Shell, Toyota and Volkswagen. Among the key findings of the study were:

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CMU county-level study shows plug-ins have larger or smaller lifecycle GHG than gasoline ICE depending on regional factors

April 09, 2016

A US-wide county-level study comparing lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from several light-duty passenger gasoline and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) has found that PEVs can have larger or smaller carbon footprints than gasoline vehicles depending on regional factors and the specific vehicle models being compared.

The team from Carnegie Mellon University led by Dr. Jeremy Michalek accounted for regional differences in emissions due to marginal grid mix; ambient temperature; patterns of vehicle miles traveled (VMT); and driving conditions (city versus highway). Their open-access paper is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

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Argonne LCA study finds many alternative fuels consume more water than petroleum and natural gas fuels

March 09, 2016

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have analyzed the water consumption for transportation fuels in the United States using an extended lifecycle system boundary that includes the water embedded in intermediate processing steps.

In a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, they compared the water consumed per unit energy and per km traveled in light-duty vehicles. They found that many alternative fuels consume larger quantities of water on a per km basis than traditional petroleum and natural gas pathways. The authors concluded that it will be important to consider the implications of transportation and energy policy changes on water resources in the future.

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Rice study finds using natural gas for electricity and heating, not transportation, more effective in reducing GHGs

Rice University researchers have determined a more effective way to use natural gas to reduce climate-warming emissions would be in the replacement of existing coal-fired power plants and fuel-oil furnaces rather than burning it in cars and buses.

The Rice study by environmental engineer Daniel Cohan and alumnus Shayak Sengupta compared the net greenhouse gas-emission savings that could be realized by replacing other fuels in vehicles, furnaces and power plants. They found that gas-fired power plants achieved the greatest reduction—more than 50%—in net emissions when replacing old coal-fired power plants. The use of compressed natural gas in vehicles yielded the least benefit, essentially matching the emissions of modern gasoline or diesel engines.

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Singapore considers Model S EV a high carbon emission vehicle based on fuel consumption and upstream power generation

Channel NewsAsia recently reported on the case of a Tesla Model S owner in Singapore who, rather than receiving the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) rebate he expected of S$15,000 (US$10,841) was hit with a CEVS surcharge of S$15,000 for having high carbon emissions.

Under Singapore’s revised Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), all new cars and imported used cars registered from 1 July 2015 with low carbon emissions of less than or equal to 135g CO2/km qualify for rebates of between S$5,000 (US$3,614) and S$30,000 (US$21,681), which are offset against the vehicle’s Additional Registration Fee (ARF). Cars with high carbon emissions equal to or more than 186g CO2/km incur a registration surcharge of between S$5,000 and S$30,000.

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CMU study finds that coal retirement is needed for EVs to reduce air pollution

February 12, 2016

Electric vehicles charged in coal-heavy regions can create more human health and environmental damages from life cycle air emissions than gasoline vehicles, according to a new consequential life cycle analysis by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. However, the anticipated—albeit now possibly delayed, per the recent Supreme Court decision—retirement of coal-fired power plants will make electric vehicles more competitive on an air emissions basis, the researchers found.

Among the findings of the study, published as an open-access paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, was that battery electric vehicles with large battery capacity can produce two to three times as much air emissions damage as gasoline hybrid electric vehicles, depending on charge timing.

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FuelCell Energy pathway for hydrogen from digester gas has negative carbon intensity for CA LCFS

December 23, 2015

Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy (FCE) has applied for a prospective pathway for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) for the production of hydrogen fuel produced from biogas derived from the mesophilic anaerobic digestion of wastewater sludge at a publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

The biogas is cleaned, then internally reformed in an integrated hydrogen energy system (Tri-Gen DFC) that produces hydrogen fuel for transportation; electric power for plant operations and export; as well as thermal energy for plant use. Once the internal energy demands of the pathway have been met, any energy not utilized for process is considered to be surplus to the system boundary and is credited to the FCE pathway.

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Mercedes-Benz publishes lifecycle analysis of its first PHEV SUV: GLE 500 e

December 22, 2015

Mercedes-Benz has released the lifecycle analysis for its first plug-in hybrid SUV, the GLE 500 e 4MATIC (GLE 550e in the US). (Earlier post.)

The GLE 500 e 4MATIC burns 3.7–3.3 liters of fuel for every 100 km (63.5 to 71.2 mpge), equating to CO2 emissions of 84–78 g/km; electric power consumption is 16.7 kWh per 100 km. All-electric range is up to 30 km (18.6 miles), and all-electric top speed is 130 km/h (81 mph)—corresponding to the recommended speed on German autobahns.

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EPA: jatropha-based biofuels could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biodiesel under RFS

October 19, 2015

Based on its analysis of the production and transport components of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuel made from jatropha oil, the US EPA anticipates that biofuels produced from jatropha oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program if typical fuel production process technologies or process technologies with the same or lower GHG emissions are used. EPA has published its analysis in the Federal Register and is inviting comment.

Background. The RFS regulations lists three critical components of an approved fuel pathway: (1) Fuel type; (2) feedstock; and (3) production process. EPA uses lifecycle analysis to assess the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of a fuel throughout each stage of its production and use.

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Argonne analysis shows greenhouse gas emissions similar for shale, conventional oil

October 16, 2015

Shale oil production generates greenhouse gas emissions at levels similar to conventional crude oil production, according to a pair of new studies released by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

The research, conducted by Argonne researchers in collaboration with Stanford University and the University of California, Davis, analyzed the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas and the Bakken play mainly in North Dakota. Eagle Ford and Bakken are the second and third largest oil-producing shale formation regions in the United States, during the last three years. In 2014, Bakken and Eagle Ford together accounted for 54% of oil production and 19% of gas production among the top seven production regions. These are shale formations with low permeability and must be hydraulically fractured to produce oil and gas.

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Argonne study finds lightweight material substitution increases vehicle-cycle GHGs, but results in total life-cycle benefit

October 12, 2015

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has taken a closer look at vehicle-cycle (all processes related to vehicle manufacturing) and vehicle total life-cycle (vehicle-cycle plus fuel cycle—i.e., the use phase) impacts of substituting lightweight materials into vehicles.

In a study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that while material substitution can reduce vehicle weight, it often increases vehicle-cycle greenhouse gas emissions GHGs—for example, replacing steel with wrought aluminum, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CRFP), or magnesium increases the vehicle-cycle GHGs. However, lifetime fuel economy benefits often outweigh the vehicle-cycle, resulting in a net total life-cycle GHG benefit, they found. This is the case for steel replaced by wrought aluminum in all assumed cases, and for CFRP and magnesium except for high substitution ratio and low fuel reduction value.

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Honda launches new “Green Path” initiatives for manufacturing and operations; new $210M paint line at Marysville with new 4C2B process

September 25, 2015

Honda has announced several initiatives under its new “Green Path” approach to reducing the total life-cycle environmental impact of its products and operations in North America. Among these is a $210-million investment in a new, more environmentally responsible auto-body painting facility and innovative paint process at its Marysville, Ohio auto plant (MAP), the largest of Honda’s eight auto plants in North America. MAP produces the Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe along with the Acura TLX and ILX for customers in more than 100 countries.

Honda has established a voluntary goal to reduce its total GHG emissions—including customer use-phase—by 50% by the year 2050, compared to 2000 levels; this works out to a reduction of 90% per unit sales—a difficult task, noted Ryan Harty, a former Honda R&D engineer who now manages Honda’s new Environmental Business Development Office.

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EPRI-NRDC report finds widespread vehicle electrification and a cleaner grid could lead to substantial cuts in GHG by 2050

September 21, 2015

Widespread adoption of electric transportation, including electrification in the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and could modestly improve air quality, according to a new analysis released by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio”, is based on a projection that by 2050 electricity replaces traditional fuels for approximately half of light- and medium-duty transportation and a significant portion of non-road equipment. This study builds on the 2007 Environmental Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles by EPRI and NRDC (earlier post), which showed that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could contribute to reductions in national greenhouse gas emissions, while also leading to improved air quality. As with the earlier assessment, this study consists of two separate, but related, analyses: greenhouse gas emissions from 2015-2050, and air quality impacts in 2030.

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