1997-02-24

Hypercars: A Market-Oriented Approach to Meeting Lifecycle Environmental Goals 971096

Growing social and regulatory pressures are compelling automakers to make cars with not only higher quality but also lower lifecycle environmental impacts. Examples include rules and incentives for clean manufacturing, low-emission vehicles, and recycling. Yet focusing on any single issue or stage of the car's lifecycle in isolation can easily turn into a zero-sum game: any improvement in one area can worsen other issues or stages, or even render the car unmarketable or unprofitable. This paper describes a system-level approach to car design that could minimize lifecycle environmental impacts without sacrificing the features that make cars attractive to consumers, such as price, performance, safety, comfort, and styling. This approach is the ultralight, hybrid-electric “hypercar” concept developed at Rocky Mountain Institute's Hypercar Center since 1991. The paper details how a car optimized to meet market and regulatory requirements can also have a minimal lifecycle environmental impact.

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