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Advances and critical aspects in the life-cycle assessment of battery electric cars

Authors Helmers E, Weiss M

Received 9 August 2016

Accepted for publication 30 October 2016

Published 1 February 2017 Volume 2017:5 Pages 1—18


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Hisham Khatib

Eckard Helmers,1 Martin Weiss2

1Department of Environmental Planning and Technology, Environment Campus Birkenfeld, University of Applied Sciences Trier, Birkenfeld, Germany; 2Sustainable Transport Unit, Directorate C – Energy, Transport and Climate, European Commission – DG Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy

Abstract: Concerns over climate change, air pollution, and oil supply have stimulated the market for battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The environmental impacts of BEVs are typically evaluated through a standardized life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. Here, the LCA literature was surveyed with the objective to sketch the major trends and challenges in the impact assessment of BEVs. It was found that BEVs tend to be more energy efficient and less polluting than conventional cars. BEVs decrease exposure to air pollution as their impacts largely result from vehicle production and electricity generation outside of urban areas. The carbon footprint of BEVs, being highly sensitive to the carbon intensity of the electricity mix, may decrease in the nearby future through a shift to renewable energies and technology improvements in general. A minority of LCAs covers impact categories other than carbon footprint, revealing a mixed picture. Up to date little attention is paid so far in LCA to the efficiency advantage of BEVs in urban traffic, the gap between on-road and certified energy consumption, the local exposure to air pollutants and noise and the aging of emissions control technologies in conventional cars. Improvements of BEV components, directed charging, second-life reuse of vehicle batteries, as well as vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid applications will significantly reduce the environmental impacts of BEVs in the future.

Keywords: toxic emissions, China, energy use, carbon footprint, impact categories, environmental impact, health impact

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