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Green NCAP LCA results show heavier cars harm climate and energy demand

Green NCAP recently published the results of their Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which analyzed the greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy demand of 34 cars with various powertrain types, including battery electric, hybrid electric, conventional petrol and diesel, and one alternative fuel vehicle – the Ford Puma.


Green NCAP LCA results show heavier cars harm climate and energy demand p
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The LCA analysis utilized the interactive tool available on Green NCAP’s website and considered the average energy mix of 27 EU Member States and the UK, with an average driving distance of 240,000 km over 16 years.

The findings of Green NCAP indicate that the ongoing trend of bigger and heavier cars is having a substantial adverse effect on climate and energy demand. This leads to increased fuel and electric energy usage, as well as a larger footprint in the manufacturing of vehicles and batteries.

According to Green NCAP’s, their Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results reveal the impact of car size and powertrain on greenhouse gas emissions and energy demand. The trend towards larger cars, particularly SUVs, is driven by consumer and manufacturer preferences. The LCA analysis found that battery electric vehicles have 40-50% lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petrol cars, depending on the model. However, the primary energy demand of electric and conventional cars is similar. Hybrid electric SUVs have higher fuel consumption and emissions, resulting in a life cycle value of 200-240 g CO2-equivalent/km and an estimated 0.85-1.0 kWh/km. Notably, the bio-ethanol (E85) Ford Puma has greenhouse gas emissions reduced to a level comparable to battery electric cars, but its energy demand increases by 57% due to bio-fuel production.

The LCA calculations also highlight the significant influence of mass on emissions and energy demand across all powertrain types. Heavier vehicles have a greater negative impact on the environment and require more energy to operate. Although battery electric vehicles have lower lifetime greenhouse gas emissions, their increased weight partially offsets this benefit. Overall, the LCA findings underscore the importance of reducing car size and weight to mitigate environmental harm.

Aleksandar Damyanov, Green NCAP’s Technical Manager, said:

“Electric vehicles and electrification in general offer huge potential in reducing greenhouse gases, but the ever-increasing trend of heavier vehicles diminishes this prospect. To counteract this, Green NCAP calls on manufacturers to reduce the mass of their products and calls on consumers to make purchasing decisions that not only consider the powertrain of their new cars, but also consider their weight.”

According to Green NCAP: ‘these latest LCA results include further developments made on LCA methodology and data used. Compared to last year’s release, calculations consider the increasing share of battery production in Europe and use the forecast of energy supply in the period 2022‑2037. Furthermore, vehicle maintenance model has been improved and amongst other points, now considers urea usage for diesel-powertrains.’

For the European Life Cycle Assessment Results and Fact Sheets, click here



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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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