Life Cycle Assessment of a Complete Car The Mercedes-Benz Approach 971166
Car manufacturers spend steadily increasing efforts to design cars in such a way that material selection, production steps, use and recycling, respectively disposal, fulfill environmental expectations and requirements to an optimal, best known extent.
The additional application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for car design supports a better and virtually “objective” understanding about resource consumption and environmental impacts during the complete life cycle of cars. Thus, LCA opens a high potential to contribute for future cars to improve them in terms of ecology as well as with regard to technological and even economic aspects. Holistic Life Cycle Costing (LCC) can hereby serve in a useful complementary manner.
Co-operating with experienced partners and taking part in the development of LCA standards, Mercedes-Benz is developing LCA as a supporting tool for vehicle design. Based on today's standards and growing experience, at first Life Cycle Inventories have been carried out for smaller components, including specific production processes. According to the progress in LCA development, Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) and Evaluation/Interpretation will gradually be added as further LCA steps.
The mentioned LCAs are based on existing components and production processes and aim at building up car specific LCA know-how. These efforts are being increasingly continued with new projects to gather “piece by piece” - as in a mosaic - input- as well as output-data and information on the complete life cycle of car components, including raw material extraction, material-synthesis, production processes, use phase and recycling and/or disposal. This is the first step towards a detailed LCA of a complete car representing the “complete mosaic”. However, as a car consists of several thousands of components, a car-related LCA-approach will be of vital interest.
Based on the experience with the first step the second step is to select “right representative” materials, processes and components, then to perform an LCA and finally to transfer these results to “similiar” materials, processes and components. Thus, it seems to become possible to have a “lean, quick and nevertheless reliable” LCA-approach for a complete car within a much shorter time period than done exclusively with the above mentioned “first step” methodology.
Best efficiency in terms of environmental protection and cost saving will be gained if a “Car LCA” is applied in the very beginning of a car's development. Because of the very narrow time schedule of these phases, the Car LCA has to be further developed into a “Quick Car LCA” approach.
The necessity for a quick LCA-methodology comes from the fact that important final decisions on the selection of materials and processes are made in the concept phase and even more in the configuration phase of a new car - both phases with a very narrow time schedule. However, developing and selecting the right applicable “Quick Car-LCA” can only be based on comprehensive knowledge and know how with car related LCAs.