Life cycle assessment (LCA) is critical to fully understanding and reducing vehicle emissions, Cees ten Broek, WorldAutoSteel director, said at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show in a joint press conference with engineering firm, EDAG International. ten Broek presented the results of a global steel industry initiative, FutureSteelVehicle (FSV), developed by EDAG and supported by investors of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI).
"When vehicle emissions assessments are focused solely on what comes out of the tailpipe, this encourages use of low-density, greenhouse gas-intensive materials that may provide lighter weight components to improve tailpipe emissions," ten Broek said. "However, their greenhouse gas intensity may have the unintended consequence of increasing greenhouse gas emissions on a life cycle basis."
According to the recent study titled "Preparing for a Life Cycle CO2 Measure," conducted by global engineering firm Ricardo for the United Kingdom's Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, vehicle production, including materials manufacturing, accounts for approximately 25 percent of the life cycle emissions in today's vehicles. These are the embedded emissions that occur before a vehicle is driven on the road.
The same study estimates that embedded emissions will grow to 57 percent of the total life cycle emissions in large part due to the introduction of battery powered vehicles. As energy sources used to power batteries increase in efficiencies, the material manufacturing portion of embedded emissions will increase in importance. Without a LCA strategy in place, material decision makers will not be aware of the environmental impact. According to ten Broek, this is why the FSV program is so important.
ten Broek and EDAG presented the FSV results, which demonstrated that body structure weights for battery and fuel cell vehicles are on par with aluminum designs and a 70 percent reduction in life cycle emissions over similarly sized vehicles using internal combustion engines.
"Because steel manufacturing has one-fifth to one-twentieth the emissions of alternate materials, these designs are truly a breakthrough, enabling reductions through the entire life cycle from manufacturing to tailpipe to recyclability," ten Broek said.
Specifically, the FSV program delivered significant mass savings in four proposed vehicles for 2015 to 2020: a compact battery electric vehicle; plug-in hybrid (PHEV); mid-size-class PHEV; and mid-size fuel cell electric options. The heaviest powertrain of the four options has a body structure that weighs 188 kg. These aggressive weight reductions were possible by incorporating high-strength and advanced high-strength steels in 97 percent of the structure in tandem with steel manufacturing technologies and a state-of-the-future biometric design methodology. Biometric designs are those that mimic nature in their precision and function, and - in the case of FSV - allowed the combinations of gauge, grade and geometry to be optimized. The resulting design was accomplished at no cost premium. FSV's battery electric body structure can be manufactured for $1,115.
"SMDI and WorldAutoSteel are actively pursuing the advancement of LCA-based vehicle designs because we believe it is the only way that vehicle emissions can truly be reduced for meaningful impact, today and tomorrow," Ronald Krupitzer, vice president, automotive applications, SMDI, said.
The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, grows and maintains the use of steel through strategies that promote cost-effective solutions in the automotive, construction and container markets, as well as for new-growth opportunities in emerging steel markets.
WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, comprises 17 major global steel producers from around the world. WorldAutoSteel's mission is to advance and communicate steel's unique ability to meet the automotive industry's needs and challenges in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. WorldAutoSteel is committed to a low carbon future, the principles of which are embedded in our continuous research, manufacturing processes, and ultimately, in the advancement of automotive steel products, for the benefit of society and future generations.