Life cycle assessment of the road transport sector
Journal article, 1996
The road transport sector has been studied with a life-cycle perspective. Transport activities and products used for road transportation have been analysed in order to identify those with significant contribution to the total environmental impact. Detailed data on the environmental burdens caused by different transportation activities such as fuel production, fuel combustion at driving, maintenance of the vehicle and production and after use treatment of the vehicle have been collected and transformed into a form usable in life cycle assessment (LCA). A comprehensive and flexible system model for description of road transportation systems has been developed. A software program, KRABAT, has been developed from the system model. The program has been used for calculation of the environmental burdens of road transportation. The use of non-renewable energy is sometimes used as an indicator of the environmental impact of activities. In this study the consumption of non-renewable fuels, electricity and air emissions have been considered. The production, maintenance and after use treatment of the vehicle have shown to contribute significantly to the total environmental impact of road transportation, measured per vehicle kilometer. This is especially valid for passenger cars, for which the amount of fossile fuel used for production of the vehicle is about 10% of the total amount used during the whole life time of the car. This share is generally much smaller for trucks, since they are used more frequently than passenger cars. The treatment of the different materials of the car after use is of importance for the possibilities of minimization of the environmental impact from road transport. In a case study, the environmental burdens from all processes and transports in the life cycle of newspapers have been analysed. Two after use treatment scenarios were studied, one with 70% recycling and the other with 100% incineration with heat recovery. The total contribution of environmental burdens from transportation to the total of the whole life cycle were studied. It could not be concluded that transportation increased with a higher degree of recycling. This holds true for our assumptions. The result may however be different for other geographical conditions, population densities, etc.
life cycle assessment