Clean Cars are Good. Life Cycle Engineering is Better.

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Life Cycle Assessment reveals the quantitative variations in environmental impacts over the different phases of the vehicle’s life cycle. In the case of conventional petrol or diesel vehicles for example, it reveals that most CO2 – approximately three quarters – is emitted in the use phase. The fraction emitted at the manufacturing stage is much smaller.

In the case of water on the other hand, the picture is quite different. Even if it is regularly washed, the consumption of water during the vehicle’s useful life is very low. Most water is consumed at earlier stages in the life cycle.

Analyzing the life cycle environmental impact of a vehicle is a complex task. Data must be inventoried for all components and all processes in the production phase. Therefore data is drawn from the Volkswagen Material Information System (MISS) and external databases.

Volkswagen is now prepared using a Life Cycle Inventory IT tool. Fuel consumption and emissions during the use phase are calculated for the entire useful life of the vehicle, using the statutory New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). The inventoried data on emissions is classified into environmental impact categories. CO2 and methane for example contribute to the category “global warming”. The other environmental impact categories considered are photochemical ozone creation, acidification, ozone depletion and eutrophication potential.