The climate issue has long been a driving force for the electrification of the transport sector, but the benefit to the environment has sometimes been questioned.
– The new EU report shows that the electric car is less harmful to the environment than fossil-powered vehicles, but there are challenges when it comes to raw materials for battery production, says Anders Nordelöf, leader of the SEC theme Electromobility in society and researcher at the Division of Environmental Systems Analysis at Chalmers.
The European Commission has taken a holistic approach and ordered a life cycle analysis to get answers on the environmental impact of different vehicle types. The aim is to summarize the research situation for the environmental assessment of vehicles in order to provide the Commission with a better basis for decision-making in its work to drive the electrification of the transport sector to reduce climate and environmental impact. The compilation includes light and heavy vehicles powered by electric, hybrid and internal combustion engines, and is one of the largest compilations of research literature ever made within the field.
– Now that the research field is thoroughly reviewed and important messages from the research field have been assessed, it is fun to see that the work I did several years ago during my doctoral studies, is quoted several times, says Anders Nordelöf.
Above all, he refers to an article published in 2014, a literature review of the research field until 2013. Anders Nordelöf then studied fully electric vehicles, but also rechargeable hybrids. But just a few heavy vehicles because there were not so many studies.
– My work was then one of the major reviews of the research area. It is still the same main tracks that this report comes back to. I compiled and analyzed the research literature that existed based on method choices and system boundaries and outlined the types of LCA studies that answer certain types of questions.
– In the EU’s large report, they have also made their own calculations and life cycle analyzes for different type vehicles. It is a broad compilation with over 300 different literature sources and a variety of actors such as Scania, Volvo Cars, IVL and Northvolt have contributed views, says Anders Nordelöf.
The EU study then used additional parts of Anders Nordelöf’s research – computer models that he developed for driveline components and manufacturing processes within the framework of his PhD thesis.
– You hope that what you do will contribute to building knowledge. So it feels great when the work is used in such an important compilation, which is then passed on to decision-makers in the EU.
Anders Nordelöf describes his work as footwork for improved data quality in life cycle analysis on electric vehicles, which others can build on to make better analyzes.
– This is really how you should look at these inventory data models that I have developed. They are tools for LCA analysts, who then pass on their knowledge to decision makers. My work in this case is a subset of the bottom of the pyramid. I have contributed with some important stones for the foundation. I addition, I benefit from these models in my own research too, of course.
The EU report cites and uses research described in five articles from Anders Nordelöf’s dissertation. The doctoral project, which ended in 2017, was carried out with funding from the Chalmers Area of Advance Energy, and the data model development also received support from the Swedish Electromobility Center.
Text: Ann-Christine Nordin/ Chalmers