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Steel industry calls for shift in vehicle emissions regulations from tailpipe to total lifecycle

WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, with support from investor companies of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), stressed the need to shift the basis of vehicle emissions regulations from tailpipe emissions to a total life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA considers emissions from all aspects of a vehicle’s life including material and vehicle production, driving, and end-of-life-recycling and should become a factor in vehicle emissions regulations around the world, according to WorldAutoSteel.

A report prepared by Ricardo earlier this year for, and in collaboration with, the expert membership of the UK’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (earlier post) highlighted the increasing importance of accounting for whole life carbon emissions to compare the greenhouse gas emissions of low carbon vehicles. The study found that some of the CO2 savings made during the use of low carbon vehicles is offset by increased emissions created during their production, and to a lesser extent, disposal.

For example, a typical medium-sized family car will create around 24 tonnes of CO2 during its life cycle, while an electric vehicle (EV) will produce around 18 tonnes over its life, the report said. For a battery EV, 46% of its total carbon footprint is generated at the factory, before it has travelled a single mile.

The Ricardo/LowCVP report recommended that regulators should consider a new CO2 metric based on the GHG emissions emitted during vehicle production [tCO2e], and then consider targets aimed at reducing the life cycle CO2 [tCO2e].

When vehicle emissions assessments are focused solely on the emissions produced during the driving phase (tailpipe), it encourages the use of greenhouse gas-intensive materials in the effort to reduce vehicle weight and fuel consumption. However, this may have the unintended consequence of increasing greenhouse gas emissions during the vehicle’s total life cycle.

—Cees ten Broek, director, WorldAutoSteel

Alternative materials, such as aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber produce emissions during their manufacture that are five to 20 times greater than steel, the steel association said.

The United States is currently examining fuel economy and emissions requirements for 2017-2025, while the mid-term review of EU legislation on emission standards for new cars is expected next year and, in many Asia Pacific countries, vehicle efficiency standards also are being assessed. In light of these developments, the industry is calling for a shift from tailpipe emissions regulations to a LCA approach that effectively measures the carbon footprint of current and future cars.

Regulations that focus only on one part of the vehicle’s life cycle will become immediately out of date as the electric vehicle becomes more prominent on the road. We are only shifting the problem to other vehicle life cycle phases.

—Cees ten Broek

WorldAutoSteel recently released results of a global steel industry initiative, the FutureSteelVehicle (FSV), which features fully engineered steel body structure designs for electrified vehicles that reduce total life cycle emissions by nearly 70% and vehicle weight by 35% compared to a benchmark. (Earlier post.)

SMDI Automotive Applications Council Investors include: AK Steel Corporation; ArcelorMittal Dofasco; ArcelorMittal USA LLC; Nucor Corporation; Severstal North America Inc.; ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC; United States Steel Corporation.




That would be inappropriate. Those life cycle assessments are very abstract and you can not measure "on site". In reality it would be locking EV technology development since now it's just infancy stage. Moreover - the electricity footprint is variating from region to region and in general it is decreasing, but gasoline carbon footprint is increasing since more energy is needed for oil extraction.


P.S. Nobody is taking into account CO2 footprint of wind power, solar cells when giving carbon credits. Numerous studies demonstrates that solar cells generate much more CO2 during manufacturing per Lifetime/kWh produced than dirtiest coal power plants. How about that?


Good point re: the shifting CO2 footprint of oil. However, I take issue with the life-cycle assessment of solar power compared to coal. Yes, photovoltaics, given the current supply chain, do have a CO2 footprint. In terms of power generating capacity, that footprint is much higher than any combustion source of energy (coal, gas, etc fired power station). However, per kw/h produced over its life, solar power has a FAR lower footprint than any combustion source unless you assign an absurdly low life span to a solar panel.


Good points Darius and GP.

Studies generated by/for the steel, coal and oil industries have to be taken with suspicion because they are often tailored to promote their own interests.

Aluminium cars may be the easiest one to re-cycle over and over again and could have the lowest pollution foot print when recycling is done with clean electricity.

Dave R

@Darius - what "studies" show that electricity generated from PV exceeds fossil fuels?

All the real studies I've seen show that your typical PV system reaches break-even on carbon emissions in 1-3 years. All the power generated after that is CO2 free.


One wonders what the lifecycle CO2 figures look like given an assumption that aluminum and magnesium production will migrate to Iceland, with its enormous untapped reserves of hydropower.

Much better, I suspect.



Numerous studies demonstrates that solar cells generate much more CO2 during manufacturing per Lifetime/kWh produced than dirtiest coal power plants. How about that?

Those 'numerous studies' only exist in your fantasy.


Regulation "maintenance" IS a gov function !
Not as fun as wasting other people's money, but it IS their job.

Some political donations to politicians with flexible integrity to be included, of course.


And of course they can do, or maybe even fund (arrrgh), a boring, but essential, impartial study before deciding to change or not change the regulation.

If kept low key, but public, the gov does these quite well - OMO,


Even the very best most efficient crystalline silicon have not yet reached the 29% mark and there is the added cost of storage systems. But there have been great strides and for people in sunbelts and deserts - not a terrible path.

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