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Water Usages in the Vehicle Life Cycle

To better assess our water-related impacts, we have been working to quantify water consumption over the life of a typical light-duty vehicle in the U.S. The Georgia Institute of Technology’s (Georgia Tech’s) Sustainable Design and Manufacturing Program conducted a literature survey and analysis that included water used in material production, production of parts, vehicle assembly, vehicle use (fuel production and distribution) and vehicle disposal at end-of-life. Georgia Tech has also worked with Ford on a number of other multidisciplinary issues related to sustainable development.

The analysis found that the greatest water consumption occurs during the use phase. Although the car itself does not consume a lot of water, this is the most water-intensive period because of the water used to produce fuel. In the supply chain, the production and processing of materials (e.g., steel and aluminum) require the most water. Identifying which portions of the supply chain are most water intensive allows us to better assess the business risk associated with using suppliers in potentially water-stressed areas.

To improve our understanding of the water impacts from our products, we are currently estimating the freshwater withdrawal (i.e., use) and consumption for the life cycle of a model year 2012 Ford Focus. In this analysis, both direct and indirect water usages will be accounted for throughout the life cycle, based on a lifetime driving distance of 160,000 miles and the typical U.S. gasoline, E10, which includes 10 percent ethanol. A preliminary analysis has been completed. We will publish the results once they are verified.

Life Cycle Water Consumption1

Stage Approximate Water Consumption (Liters) Percentage
Total 59,600 100%
Material Production2 5,600 9%
Production of Parts 900 1.5%
Assembly of Vehicle 800 1.3%
Total Use Phase 52,000 87%
End of Life 300 0.5%

Notes to Data

  1. Source: B. Bras, F. Tejada, J. Yen, J. Zullo, T. Guldberg, Quantifying the Life Cycle Water Consumption of a Passenger Vehicle, SAE Technical Paper 2012-01-0646.
  2. Indirect, upstream water consumptions were not included in the material production stage.

Water Consumption = Freshwater withdrawals that are evaporated or incorporated in products and waste.

Water Use = All water that goes into a system. Most of this typically leaves the system as wastewater.

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