Although recent progress in automotive technology has reduced exhaust emissions per mile for new cars, the continuing use of inefficient, higher-polluting old cars as well as increasing vehicle miles driven are undermining the benefits of this progress. As a way to address the "inefficient old vehicle" contribution to this problem, a novel life cycle optimization (LCO) model is introduced and applied to the automobile replacement policy question. The LCO model determines optimal vehicle lifetimes, accounting for technology improvements of new models while considering deteriorating efficiencies of existing models. Life cycle inventories for different vehicle models that represent materials production, manufacturing, use, maintenance, and end-of-life environmental burdens are required as inputs to the LCO model. As a demonstration, the LCO model was applied to mid-sized passenger car models between 1985 and 2020. An optimization was conducted to minimize cumulative carbon monoxide (CO), nonmethane hydrocarbon (NMHC), oxides of nitrogen (NO x), carbon dioxide (CO2), and energy use over the time horizon (1985-2020). For CO, NMHC, and NOx pollutants with 12 000 mi of annual mileage, automobile lifetimes ranging from 3 to 6 yr are optimal for the 1980s and early 1990s model years while the optimal lifetimes are expected to be 7-14 yr for model year 2000s and beyond. On the other hand, a lifetime of 18 yr minimizes cumulative energy and CO2 based on driving 12 000 miles annually. Optimal lifetimes are inversely correlated to annual vehicle mileage, especially for CO, NMHC, and NOx emissions. On the basis of the optimization results, policies improving durability of emission controls, retiring high-emitting vehicles, and improving fuel economies are discussed.
CSS Publication Number:
Environmental Science & Technology
November 1, 2003
Kim, Hyung Chul, Gregory A. Keoleian, Darby E. Grande, and James C. Bean. 2003. Life Cycle Optimization of Automobile Replacement: Model & Application. Environmental Science & Technology 37(23): 5407-5413.