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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Sep 15;42(18):6973-9.

Parametric assessment of climate change impacts of automotive material substitution.

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  • 1Donald Bren School of Enuironmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-5131, USA.


Quantifying the net climate change impact of automotive material substitution is not a trivial task. It requires the assessment of the mass reduction potential of automotive materials, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their production and recycling, and their impact on GHG emissions from vehicle use. The model presented in this paper is based on life cycle assessment (LCA) and completely parameterized, i.e., its computational structure is separated from the required input data, which is not traditionally done in LCAs. The parameterization increases scientific rigor and transparency of the assessment methodology, facilitates sensitivity and uncertainty analysis of the results, and also makes it possible to compare different studies and explain their disparities. The state of the art of the modeling methodology is reviewed and advanced. Assessment of the GHG emission impacts of material recycling through consequential system expansion shows that our understanding of this issue is still incomplete. This is a critical knowledge gap since a case study shows thatfor materials such as aluminum, the GHG emission impacts of material production and recycling are both of the same size as the use phase savings from vehicle mass reduction.

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