Impacts of Geographic Variation on Aluminum Lightweighted Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Increasing fuel prices, environmental concerns, and fuel efficiency regulations are precipitating the adoption of new vehicle construction and propulsion technologies that are sensitive to location of vehicle production and use. This sensitivity to location stands in contrast to the dominant vehicle technologies of the last 100 years. Plug-in hybrid electric powertrains and lightweight automotive aluminum are especially location sensitive as vehicle battery charging and aluminum production consume large amounts of electricity from a geographically variable electricity grid. This thesis focused on the impact of geographic variation on lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of aluminum lightweighted plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. We conducted a high resolution characterization of U.S. primary aluminum production, paying special attention to the methods used to allocate consumed electricity emissions, and performed a case study in which a plug-in hybrid vehicle’s conventional steel hood was lightweighted with aluminum. By understanding the impact of regional variations in material production and vehicle use, we wish to inform decision makers of potential hotspots within their vehicle design and material supply chain strategies. This information can help direct attention to the most impactful parts of the vehicle’s lifecycle and ensure that strategies designed to lower the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of personal transport have the desired effect.