Energy Use and GHG Impacts of Automotive Materials

The Vehicle Materials Energy Model or the UCSB GHG Automotive Materials Comparison Model’s key objective is to quantify the GHG and energy effects of automotive material substitution on the basis of total vehicle life cycle under a wide range of conditions and in a well defined manner.

The model is characterized by many different key upgrades when compared to the earlier generation. Sample screen of the UCSB GHG Automotive Materials Comparison Model is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

The Vehicle Materials Energy Model Version 3.0

Version 3.0 enables the analysis of more number of vehicle types with the models under the broadest range of conditions, with updated powertrain data to represent current state. It features the following data and modeling capabilities in addition to the functionality of Version 2:

  • Updated GHG emission and energy data of aluminum and steel manufacturing and finishing
  • Addition of the U.S. driving cycle outlined in SAE J1711 (UDDS/HFEDS) for all power trains.
  • Inclusion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and primary energy demand from lithium ion battery production, related to the electric power train options included in a mid-cycle update of Version 2. Automatic adjustment of the battery size in the contender vehicles in order to maintain consistent pure electric driving range.
  • Addition of new energy savings (ES) and energy demand (ED) values for FCV, HEV, ICEV-D and ICEV-G power trains. They represent efficiency improvements of sophisticated power train components and design. Moreover, the model still has the old ED and ES values for these powertrains.

Dr. Roland Geyer from Bren School for Environmental Science and Management of the University of California led the development of the Vehicle Materials Energy Model Version 3.0. Geyer devised the original model based on a comparison analysis of automotive materials. Version 3.0 is identical in spreadsheet design and computational structure, building on the peer-reviewed approach from previous versions of this model.

The Vehicle Materials Energy Model incorporates the processes which are appraised to be greatly affected by automotive material substitution, but does not include processes on vehicle end-of-life management, vehicle assembly and non-structural materials. It is calculated that roughly 99% of the energy and GHG impacts of the analyzed automotive material substitutions is captured by this boundary choice, i.e., the variation in impact between the alternative vehicles with same size, equipment, utility, and power train configuration.

The LCA approach helps automakers in the estimation and reduction of the total energy consumption and lifetime GHG emissions of their vehicles. Regulations which focus only the vehicle use phase or tailpipe emissions can promote the use of low-density, GHG-intensive materials that offer relatively lighter weight parts. Nevertheless, this may lead to increasing GHG emissions during the total life cycle of the vehicle.

Case studies with Version 3 elucidate a key data about the evolution of more fuel efficient vehicles, i.e., the material production phase represents a substantial percentage of the total carbon footprint of the vehicle when there is a reduction in the use phase. This is vital for legislators who seek to minimize total NET GHG emissions for mitigating global warming effects. Actually, the addition of low-density materials into future vehicle components and body structures will result in unwarranted financial and environmental expenses, as these materials require more energy for production and may be not be recyclable. This increases burden of the materials production, with the possibility of increased NET GHG emissions in spite of reduction in use phase emissions.


The Version 3 model is very user friendly as it is completely parameterized and designed using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. It is available for free download at the WorldAutoSteel website.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by WorldAutoSteel (World Auto Steel).

For more information on this source, please visit WorldAutoSteel (World Auto Steel).


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