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Vehicle-Cycle and Life-Cycle Analysis of Medium-Duty and Heavy-Duty Trucks in the United States


Iyer, Rakesh; Kelly, Jarod; Elgowainy, Amgad


Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for a substantial portion (25 %) of transport-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. Efforts to reduce these emissions focus primarily on diesel hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells, and battery electric vehicles. However, these efforts ignore the high energy intensity of producing lithium (Li)-ion batteries and the carbon fiber used in fuel-cell vehicles. Here, we conduct a life-cycle analysis to compare the impacts of the vehicle manufacturing cycle for Class 6 (pickup-and-delivery, PnD) and Class 8 (day- and sleeper-cab) trucks with diesel, electric, fuel-cell, and hybrid powertrains. We assume that all trucks were manufactured in the US in 2020 and operated over 20212035, and we developed a comprehensive materials inventory for all trucks. Our analysis reveals that common systems (trailer/van/box, truck body, chassis, and lift-gates) dominate the vehicle-cycle GHG emissions (6483 % share) of diesel, hybrid, and fuel-cell powertrains. Conversely, propulsion systems (lithium-ion batteries and fuel-cell systems) contribute substantially to these emissions for electric (4377 %) and fuel-cell powertrains (1627 %). These vehicle-cycle contributions arise from the extensive use of steel and aluminum, the high energy/GHG intensity of producing lithium-ion batteries and carbon fiber, and the assumed battery replacement schedule for Class 8 electric trucks. A switch from the conventional diesel powertrain to alternative electric and fuel-cell powertrains causes an increase in vehicle-cycle GHG emissions (by 60287 % and 1329 %, respectively) but leads to substantial GHG reductions when considering the combined vehicle- and fuel-cycles (Class 6: 3361 %, Class 8: 232 %), highlighting the benefits of this shift in powertrains and energy supply chain. Finally, payload variation significantly influences the relative life-cycle performance of different powertrains, while LIB cathode chemistry has a negligible effect on BET life-cycle GHGs.