Lifecycle Vehicle CO2 Emissions

Lifecycle assessment tracks emissions generated and materials consumed for a product system over its entire lifecycle, from cradle to grave, including material production, product manufacture, product use, product maintenance and disposal at end of life. For vehicles, this includes the environmental burdens associated with making materials (e.g., steel, aluminum, brass, copper, plastics, etc.), fabricating them into parts, assembling the parts into a vehicle, operating the vehicle over its entire lifetime, producing fuel for the vehicle, maintaining the vehicle and finally disposing of the vehicle at the end of its life. Lifecycle assessment is an essential tool when thinking about the environmental impacts of complex systems.

In our report last year, we presented the results of a lifecycle analysis for a representative midsize car and SUV in the U.S. We have used our Product Sustainability Index method to report the lifecycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the Ford Galaxy, S-MAX and Fiesta vehicles sold in Europe. Full reports on these vehicles are available online. At present, lifecycle CO2 emissions from vehicles are dominated by CO2 released during fuel consumption. Product disposal has a minor impact on airborne emissions and energy consumption relative to other phases of the product system. As vehicle fuel efficiency improves and lower-carbon fuels are made available, the relative contributions of CO2 emissions from the fuel-consumption phase will likely decrease. We are working on lifecycle emission estimates for electrified vehicles (i.e., plug-in hybrids and Battery Electric Vehicles) and expect to describe the results in future reports.