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Comparative assertion of individual mobility

In a LCA study commissioned by Axpo Holding AG, Empa’s LCAM unit compared real and hypothetical Golf-class vehicles with various propulsion technologies. An external critical review confirms, that the study fully complies with the ISO 14’040 / 44 (2006) standards.

The goal of the study was to compare the environmental aspects of driving in an electric car to those of driving in plug-in-hybrid cars, hybrid cars, and cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) relying on different fossil and renewable fuels. The following systems were compared:

Energy source / propulsion systemelectric engineplug-in-hybridhybrid enginecombustion engine
Natural Gas---X
Palm methyl ester, PME (Malaysia)---X
E85 from sugar cane² (Brazil)---X
Biogas (Swiss Kompogas)---X

¹: 6 different sources (Mix CH, Mix UCTE, nuclear CH, Combined gas UCTE, Coal UCTE, PV CH)

²: Alternative E85 from European waste wood

Vehicles are compared on the basis of transport service (i.e. per km driven) and the study encompasses the whole life cycle (from cradle to grave). Consequently the production of the vehicles as well as their operation, maintenance and end-of-life treatment are considered. We also take into account the construction, maintenance and EOL treatment of the road infrastructure attributable to the use of the cars.

The vehicles represent real (diesel and gasoline) and hypothetical golf class cars. We assume 150’000 km life time mileage for all vehicles and recycling at the end of life. We assume the average battery electric vehicle (BEV) requires 1.5 battery packs of 400 kg. This provides a range of 200-250 km per charge. The energy consumption for the use of the vehicles is calculated based on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) but includes a real world correction taking into account that the energy consumption in average operation is higher that the NEDC value due to different driving patterns and due to the energy consumption of air conditioning or heating (in the case of electric vehicles)

Results are not without ambiguity. BEV’s show environmental advantages for many aspects compared to ICE vehicles. The results, however, are subject to large variations depending on the source of the electricity and there are environmental aspects for which BEV’s generally perform worse than ICE vehicles using fossil or renewable fuels. Beside BEV powered by sustainably generated electricity we find that biogas fueled vehicles show favorable result for most indicators. Results are compiled in the table on the right side. The green values belong to the best 30%, the red values to the worst 30% according to the method in the corresponding column.

Hans-Jörg Althaus 

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Press release (in German)

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