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Report RSE 17001872

LCA of electric and conventional vehicles: Life Cycle Impact Assessment regionalization



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

EMOBILITY 2016 - Electric Mobility


This study is in continuity with the results of last year's research (RdS RSE 16002508), which demonstrated that, for most environmental aspects and analyzing a broad spectrum of different vehicles, electric cars were preferable to the traditional ones, even in a life cycle perspective. The activity described in this report has the dual aim of consolidating and deepening these outcomes and of providing a different reading tool for the results. In the first part, a sensitivity analysis was developed on parameters such as useful life of battery and electric vehicle and electric recharge mix which can heavily influence the environmental performance of vehicles from a life cycle point of view. The analysis highlights that the ranking of the vehicles performances is robust, since the strengths and weaknesses of the different motorisations do not change when the parameters change.

From a methodological development point of view, the aim of the study is to assign a geographical reference to the processes that constitute the life cycle of the vehicles, allowing geographic distribution of the impacts they generate. This result allows a complementary and non-traditional reading of the results of an LCA, as it provides stakeholders with additional information compared to the traditional distribution of the impacts per life cycle stages. The analysis shows that for many impact categories a significant share of impacts occurs in Italy. Besides, even considering the impacts due to the emissions that occur in Italy, the ranking of the technological options does not vary.

Moreover, this “geographic” approach aims to combine the LCA methodology with the calculation of external costs as an impact indicator that, by means of suitable characterization coefficients, combines the physical inventory flows that contribute to it. Since LCA is a site-independent tool, no information is given about where potential impacts take place. On the contrary, external costs are, by their nature, highly site-dependent. Hence, the need for regionalization of potential impacts arises. This study aims to identify a simplified methodology for assigning a geographical reference to the processes that constitute the life cycle of the analyzed vehicles, in order to obtain sitedependent external costs evaluations through the use of average damages per ton of emissions factors that are function of the geographical area where the pollutant emissions take place.

Finally, an initial assessment of external costs is carried out using the average Italian damage factors, providing a preliminary estimate of the external costs for the three analysed vehicles VW Golf electric, gasoline and diesel, which are respectively 1,56, 2,34 and 2,07 € Cent/km, demonstrating the environmental benefit due to the spread of electric vehicles.

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