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Article RSE 14009240

A comparative LCA of an Electric Vehicle and an Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle using the appropriate Power Mix: The Italian case study

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The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 0948-3349, Maggio-2015.

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A. Gargiulo (RSE SpA), P. Brambilla (RSE SpA), P. Girardi (RSE SpA)

EMOBILITY 2015 - Electric Mobility

The paper compares the performances of two passenger car: an Electric Vehicle (EV) and an Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle (ICEV) paying particular attention to the production of electricity that will charge the EV.

The purpose of the study is to compare the performances of two passenger cars: an Electric Vehicle (EV) and an Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle (ICEV) paying particular attention to the production of electricity that will charge the EV. Even if many similar comparative LCAs exist, only few have focused their attention on evaluating which is the kind of electricity that will re-charge EV batteries. Despite its relevance, many EV LCAs studies have used a ready-to-use dataset to evaluate the power mix that supplies electricity to EV.

The present paper tries to better define the power mix that recharges EV batteries in Italy according to the national power system and the national electric market rules. A 2013 and a 2030 scenario have been developed in order to understand effects in short and middle term. Life Cycle Inventory of electricity for EV has been estimated modifying available datasets according to official Italian data on Power Plants Efficiency and Emission Rates.

Finally, also for the ICEV use phase, existing dataset have been modified for fuel consumption and regulated emission according to the National Inventory Report results. In both 2013 and 2030 scenarios, the power mix that in Italy supplies energy to EV is dominated by fossil fuel power plants. Nevertheless, due to the fact that more than the 60% of this energy is produced in efficient combined cycle gas turbine power plants, EV performs better than ICEV in almost all the impact categories considered except for Human Toxicity and Eutrophication, the only two impact categories in which the EV car, mainly due to battery manufactory, presents more relevant potential impacts. ICEV impacts are always dominated by well to wheel phases (use phase and fuel production).

EV car and battery manufacturing have higher impacts for all categories than ICEV car manufacturing. The study demonstrates that electricity supplied in Italy to EV today is, and will probably be in 2030, mainly produced by fossil fuel power plants. Nevertheless, the EV proves to be able to reduce, with respect to ICEV, those impacts it is supposed to reduce: air acidification, photochemical oxidant formation and also greenhouse gases. Trade-offs are, as foreseeable, eutrophication and human toxicity due to EV car and battery manufacturing.

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