Automotive Climate Change Question 4

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“Does the brand disclose a full carbon Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of its main car models or series, so that the carbon emissions caused by the car production (from raw materials to final product) are also transparent?”

Dutch version: “Publiceert het merk een CO2 levenscyclus analyse (LCA) van alle basismodellen, zodat ook de CO2 emissies bij de productie van de auto, van grondstof tot eindproduct inzichtelijk zijn?”

German version: Legt das Unternehmen für seine Kernmodelle oder Fahrzeugserien eine Ökobilanz vor, um somit auch den CO2-Ausstoß während des kompletten Produktionszyklus transparent zu machen?


A LCA can be simply defined as the “assessment of the environmental impact of a given product throughout its lifespan” [1].

In general, this question is relevant for automotive manufacturers since the carbon life cycle of cars concerns both the production and use stage. According to Concerned Scientists USA (see p.6), 85% of all CO2 emissions associated with cars are vehicular (i.e. while driving); the other 15% is from production. Car brands like Volkswagen give even higher percentages, the environmental commendation of the Volkswagen Passat allocates roughly 26% of the total carbon emissions to the production phase (see p.13).

Automotive brands like Toyota and Volkswagen are developing new models based on Life Cycle Assessments (from raw material to end-of-life) and are publishing the outcomes of the analysis. This is crucial to make the most preferred environmental decisions before bringing a new model to the market, and to make it possible for third parties like scientists and research journalists to evaluate and compare the impact of cars throughout their total lifespan. It also requires car manufacturers to define the distance a car should be driven througout its life before it is discarded.

The use of uniform LCA calculations would also tackle unfounded rumors. The Toyota Prius was criticized for its – assumed – high impact of the raw material used for the batteries while the Hummer was said to have a better overall carbon performance over the Prius. Such rumors can distract from fact-based discussions and if faulty, can damage public attitudes towards 'greener' cars.

Read further:
LCA of NiMH battery for Hybrid.
LCA of Lithium Ion battery for electric vehicle

Note that ‘main car series’ here means the sub-brands, that are either advertised by the brand or known by the general public as part of that brand (e.g. Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Prius, et cetera).

Ranking guidelines

Rank Yes:

-When automotive brands roughly comply with the LCA outline stated above and cover at least the carbon emissions. Volkswagen gives a good example: page 11 shows a graph including the CO2 (equivalents) in production and use. Note that ‘main types’ refer to Golf, Polo, Passat etc in the VW example. LCA's for only one or two series are not sufficient to receive a Yes for this question.

Rank ?:

-When information on this cannot be found. Note that some car brands mention to use LCA’s but don’t publish the results. Please make a note on this in the remark section.

Rank No:

-When brands explicitly state that they do not disclose this information.