Recent U.S. rulemaking on more stringent vehicle fuel and emissions requirements seeks input concerning the use of life cycle assessment (LCA). With negotiations at the Durban COP-17 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) bringing climate change back to the top of the agenda, WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, calls on all regions to shift the basis of vehicle emissions regulations from tailpipe emissions to LCA.
LCA considers emissions from all aspects of a vehicle’s life, including material production, manufacturing, driving and end-of-life-recycling, and should play an important role in current regulation discussions around the world. On 16 November, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged this when issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for fuel economy and emissions for passenger cars and light trucks that will raise the industry average to 54.5 miles-per-gallon (mpg) from 2017 to 2025.
“It is a great accomplishment for the fight against climate change that NHTSA and EPA consider LCA to be an important aspect in future vehicle regulations’, said Cees ten Broek, Director of WorldAutoSteel. ‘When vehicle emissions assessment is focused solely on emissions produced during the driving phase (tailpipe), this encourages the use of greenhouse gas-intensive manufacturing phase technologies, such as low density materials, in an effort to reduce fuel consumption”, explained ten Broek. “However, in many cases the advantages these technologies provide in tailpipe emissions reduction may not be sufficient to offset the high manufacturing emissions. This could result in the unintended consequence of increasing greenhouse gas emissions during the vehicle’s total life cycle.
“Moreover, tailpipe regulations will become out of date for electric vehicles as they become more prominent on the road. We are only shifting the problem to other vehicle phases, which will be ignored without a life cycle approach”, added ten Broek.
According to the new US rulemaking, the EPA seeks comment on studies and research regarding information on lifecycle impacts of future advanced technologies. “Life cycle applies the sound science in an integrated approach that is necessary in future vehicle regulations if we are to have a meaningful positive impact on the environment. A regulatory approach that includes life cycle principles also has the advantage of providing carmakers greater flexibility in applying the lowest cost technology in complying with the rules as opposed to the current tailpipe approach.’ said ten Broek. “This is a win-win approach for the environment, carmakers, and consumers.”
While the US is currently examining fuel economy and emissions requirements for 2017-2025, the EU is preparing the mid-term review of EU emission standards for new cars, expected by the end of 2012. In many Asia Pacific countries, vehicle efficiency standards are also being assessed. In light of these developments, the industry is calling for a shift from tailpipe emissions regulations to an LCA approach that effectively measures the carbon footprint of today’s and future cars.
Source: worldsteel, Brussels