Alternative Vehicle Power Sources: Towards a Life Cycle Inventory
Three alternatives to internal combustion vehicles currently being researched, developed, and commercialized are electric, hybrid electric, and fuel-cell vehicles. A total life-cycle inventory for an alternative vehicle must include factors such as the impacts of car body materials, tires, and paints. However, these issues are shared with gasoline-powered vehicles; the most significant difference between these vehicles is the power source. This paper focuses on the most distinct and challenging aspect of alternative-fuel vehicles, the power sources. The life-cycle impacts of battery systems for electric and hybrid vehicles are assessed. Less data is publicly available on the fuel cell; however, we offer a preliminary discussion of the environmental issues unique to fuel cells. For each of these alternative vehicles, a primary environmental hurdle is the consumption of materials specific to the power sources.