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Life Cycle Assessment of Electric Vehicles and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Using the GREET Model—A Comparative Study


Facing global warming and recent bans on the use of diesel in vehicles, there is a growing need to develop vehicles powered by renewable energy sources to mitigate greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions. Among the various forms of non-fossil energy for vehicles, hydrogen fuel is emerging as a promising way to combat global warming. To date, most studies on vehicle carbon emissions have focused on diesel and electric vehicles (EVs). Emission assessment methodologies are usually developed for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) which are non-durable household goods such as packaged foods, beverages, and toiletries instead of vehicle products. There is an increase in the number of articles addressing the product carbon footprint (PCF) of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the recent years, while relatively little research focuses on both vehicle PCF and fuel cycle. Zero-emission vehicles initiative has also brought the importance of investigating the emission throughout the fuel cycle of hydrogen fuel cell and its environmental impact. To address these gaps, this study uses the life-cycle assessment (LCA) process of GREET (greenhouse gases, regulated emissions, and energy use in transportation) to compare the PCF of an EV (Tesla Model 3) and a hydrogen fuel cell car (Toyota MIRAI). According to the GREET results, the fuel cycle contributes significantly to the PCF of both vehicles. The findings also reveal the need for greater transparency in the disclosure of relevant information on the PCF methodology adopted by vehicle manufacturers to enable comparison of their vehicles’ emissions. Future work will include examining the best practices of PCF reporting for vehicles powered by renewable energy sources as well as examining the carbon footprints of hydrogen production technologies based on different methodologies.

Funding source: The work described in this paper was partially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (UGC/IDS(C)14/B01/19).
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways

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