The impact of reducing car weight on global emissions: the future fleet in Great Britain

Andre Cabrera Serrenho, Jonathan B. Norman, Julian M. Allwood

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Current European policies define targets for future direct emissions of new car sales that foster a fast transition to electric drivetrain technologies. However, these targets do not consider the emissions produced in electricity generation and material production, and therefore fail to incentivise car manufacturers to consider the benefits of vehicle weight reduction. In this paper, we examine the potential benefits of limiting the average weight and altering the material composition of new cars in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions produced during the use phase, electricity generation and material production. We anticipate the emissions savings for the future car fleet in Great Britain until 2050 for various alternative futures, using a dynamic material flow analysis of ferrous metals and aluminium, and considering an evolving demand for car use. The results suggest that fostering vehicle weight reduction could produce greater cumulative emissions savings by 2050 than those obtained by incentivising a fast transition to electric drivetrains, unless there is an extreme decarbonization of the electricity grid. Savings promoted by weight reduction are immediate and do not depend on the pace of decarbonization of the electricity grid. Weight reduction may produce the greatest savings when mild steel in the car body is replaced with high-strength steel.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160364
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Volume375
Issue number2095
Early online date1 May 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2017

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