A large portion of life cycle transportation impacts occur during vehicle operation, and key improvement strategies include increasing powertrain efficiency, vehicle electrification, and lightweighting vehicles by reducing their mass. The potential energy benefits of vehicle lightweighting are large, given that 29.5 EJ was used in all modes of U.S. transportation in 2016, and roughly half of the energy spent in wheeled transportation and the majority of energy spent in aircraft is used to move vehicle mass. We collect and review previous work on lightweighting, identify key parameters affecting vehicle environmental performance (e.g., vehicle mode, fuel type, material type, and recyclability), and propose a set of 10 principles, with examples, to guide environmental improvement of vehicle systems through lightweighting. These principles, based on a life cycle perspective and taken as a set, allow a wide range of stakeholders (designers, policy-makers, and vehicle manufacturers and their material and component suppliers) to evaluate the trade-offs inherent in these complex systems. This set of principles can be used to evaluate trade-offs between impact categories and to help avoid shifting of burdens to other life cycle phases in the process of improving use-phase environmental performance.
CSS Publication Number:
Environmental Science and Technology
Lewis, Geoffrey M., Cailin A. Buchanan, Krutarth D. Jhaveri, John L. Sullivan, Jarod C. Kelly, Sujit Das, Alan I. Taub, and Gregory A. Keoleian. (2019) “Green Principles for Vehicle Lightweighting.” Environmental Science and Technology. 53(8): 4063–4077.