Economic Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction by Vehicle Lightweighting Using Aluminum and High-Strength Steel

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The life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction benefits of vehicle lightweighting (LW) were evaluated in a companion article. This article provides an economic assessment of vehicle LW with aluminum and high-strength steel. Relevant cost information taken from the literature is synthesized, compiled, and formed into estimates of GHG reduction costs through LW. GHG emissions associated with vehicle LW scenarios between 6% and 23% are analyzed alongside vehicle life cycle costs to achieve these LW levels. We use this information to estimate the cost to remove GHG emissions per metric ton by LW, and we further calculate the difference between added manufacturing cost and fuel cost savings from LW. The results show greater GHG savings derived from greater LW and added manufacturing costs as expected. The associated production costs are, however, disproportionately higher than the fuel cost savings associated with higher LW options. A sensitivity analysis of different vehicle classes confirms that vehicle LW is more cost-effective for larger vehicles. Also, the cost of GHG emissions reductions through lightweighting is compared with alternative GHG emissions reduction technologies for passenger vehicles, such as diesel, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid electric powertrains. The results find intensive LW to be a competitive and complementary approach relative to the technological alternatives within the automotive industry but more costly than GHG mitigation strategies available to other industries.

cost-benefit analysis
industrial ecology
life cycle assessment (LCA)
material substitution
vehicle design
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Ecology
Date Published: 
February 2011
Persistent URL: 
doi: 10.1111/j.1530-9290.2010.00288.x
Full Citation: 
Kim, Hyung-Ju, Gregory A. Keoleian, and Steven J. Skerlos. (2011) "Economic Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction by Vehicle Lightweighting Using Aluminum and High-Strength Steel." Journal of Industrial Ecology, 15(1): 64–80.
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