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A Strategic Sustainability and Life Cycle Analysis of Electric Vehicles in EU today and by 2050
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. (Strategic Sustainable Development)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8314-7504
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. (Strategic Sustainable Development)
2016 (English)In: Proceedings of ICSUTE 2016, 2016, Vol. 10, 229-237 p.Conference paper (Refereed)Text
Abstract [en]

Ambitions within the EU for moving towards sustainable transport include major emission reductions for fossil fuel road vehicles, especially for buses, trucks, and cars. The electric driveline seems to be an attractive solution for such development. This study first applied the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development to compare sustainability effects of today’s fossil fuel vehicles with electric vehicles that have batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. The study then addressed a scenario were electric vehicles might be in majority in Europe by 2050. The methodology called Strategic Lifecycle Assessment was first used, were each life cycle phase was assessed for violations against sustainability principles. This indicates where further analysis could be done in order to quantify the magnitude of each violation, and later to create alternative strategies and actions that lead towards sustainability. A Life Cycle Assessment of combustion engine cars, plug-in hybrid cars, battery electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars was then conducted to compare and quantify environmental impacts. The authors found major violations of sustainability principles like use of fossil fuels, which contribute to the increase of emission related impacts such as climate change, acidification, eutrophication, ozone depletion, and particulate matters. Other violations were found, such as use of scarce materials for batteries and fuel cells, and also for most life cycle phases for all vehicles when using fossil fuel vehicles for mining, production and transport. Still, the studied current battery and hydrogen fuel cell cars have less severe violations than fossil fuel cars. The life cycle assessment revealed that fossil fuel cars have overall considerably higher environmental impacts compared to electric cars as long as the latter are powered by renewable electricity. By 2050, there will likely be even more sustainable alternatives than the studied electric vehicles when the EU electricity mix mainly should stem from renewable sources, batteries should be recycled, fuel cells should be a mature technology for use in vehicles (containing no scarce materials), and electric drivelines should have replaced combustion engines in other sectors. An uncertainty for fuel cells in 2050 is whether the production of hydrogen will have had time to switch to renewable resources. If so, that would contribute even more to a sustainable development. Except for being adopted in the GreenCharge roadmap, the authors suggest that the results can contribute to planning in the upcoming decades for a sustainable increase of EVs in Europe, and potentially serve as an inspiration for other smaller or larger regions. Further studies could map the environmental effects in LCA further, and include other road vehicles to get a more precise perception of how much they could affect sustainable development.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 10, 229-237 p.
, International Journal of Environmental, Chemical, Ecological, Geological and Geophysical Engineering, ISSN 2010-3778 ; 3
Keyword [en]
Strategic, electric vehicles, fuel cell, LCA, sustainability
National Category
Other Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-11711OAI: diva2:911636
The 18th International Conference on Sustainable Urban Transport and Environment (ICSUTE), Madrid, Spain, March 24-25, 2016
Available from: 2016-03-14 Created: 2016-03-14 Last updated: 2016-03-15Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sustainable Personal Road Transport: The Role of Electric Vehicles
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sustainable Personal Road Transport: The Role of Electric Vehicles
2016 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Electric vehicles can play an important role in a future sustainable road transport system and many Swedish politicians would like to see them implemented faster. This is likely desirable to reach the target of a fossil independent vehicle fleet in Sweden by 2030 and a greenhouse gas neutral Swedish society no later than 2050. However, to reach both these targets, and certainly to support the full scope of sustainability, it is important to consider the whole life-cycle of the vehicles and also the interaction between the transport sector and other sectors. So far, there are no plans for transitions towards a sustainable transport system applying a sufficiently wide systems perspective, in Sweden or elsewhere. This implies a great risk for sub-optimizations.

The overall aim of this work is to elaborate methodological support for development of sustainable personal road transport systems that is informed by a strategic sustainable development perspective.

The Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) is used as a foundation for the work to ensure a sufficiently wide systems perspective and coordinated collaboration across disciplines and sectors, both in the research and application. Maxwell’s Qualitative Research Design and the Design Research Methodology are used as overall guides for the research approach. Specific research methods and techniques include literature studies, action research seminars, interviews, and measurements of energy use, costs, and noise. Moreover, a case study on the conditions for a breakthrough for vehicles in southeast Sweden has been used as a test and development platform.

Specific results include a preliminary vision for electrical vehicles in southeast Sweden, framed by the principled sustainability definition of the FSSD, an assessment of the current reality in relation to that vision, and proposed solutions to bridge the gap, organized into a preliminary roadmap. The studies show that electric vehicles have several sustainability advantages even when their whole life-cycle is considered, provided that they are charged with electricity from new renewable sources. Electrical vehicles also imply a low total cost of ownership and could promote new local ‘green jobs’ under certain conditions. Particularly promising results are seen for electric buses in public transport. As a general result, partly based on the experiences from the specific case, a generic community planning process model is proposed and its usefulness for sustainable transport system development is discussed.

The strategic sustainable development perspective of this thesis broadens the analysis beyond the more common focus on climate change issues and reduces the risk of sub-optimizations in community and transport system development. The generic support for multi-stakeholder collaboration could potentially also promote a more participatory democratic approach to community development, grounded in a scientific foundation. Future research will explore specific decision support systems for sustainable transport development based on the generic planning process model.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2016. 116 p.
Blekinge Institute of Technology Licentiate Dissertation Series, ISSN 1650-2140 ; 2016:02
Strategic Sustainable Development, Transport Planning, Electric Vehicles, Testing, LCA
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
urn:nbn:se:bth-11715 (URN)978-91-7295-325-3 (ISBN)
2016-04-15, BTH: J1650, Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, Karlskrona, 09:30 (English)
Available from: 2016-03-15 Created: 2016-03-14 Last updated: 2016-10-19Bibliographically approved

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Borén, SvenNy, Henrik
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