Design of Eco-Efficient Body Parts for Electric Vehicles Considering Life Cycle Environmental Information
The reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the entire life cycle of vehicles has become part of the strategic objectives in automotive industry. In this regard, the design of future body parts should be carried out based on information of life cycle GHG emissions. The substitution of steel towards lightweight materials is a major trend, with the industry undergoing a fundamental shift towards the introduction of electric vehicles (EV). The present research aims to support the conceptual design of body parts with a combined perspective on mechanical performance and life cycle GHG emissions. Particular attention is paid to the fact that the GHG impact of EV in the use phase depends on vehicle-specific factors that may not be specified at the conceptual design stage of components, such as the market-specific electricity mix used for vehicle charging. A methodology is proposed that combines a simplified numerical design of concept alternatives and an analytic approach estimating life cycle GHG emissions. It is applied to a case study in body part design based on a set of principal geometries and load cases, a range of materials (aluminum, glass and carbon fiber reinforced plastics (GFRP, CFRP) as substitution to a steel reference) and different use stage scenarios of EV. A new engineering chart was developed, which helps design engineers to compare life cycle GHG emissions of lightweight material concepts to the reference. For body shells, the replacement of the steel reference with aluminum or GFRP shows reduced lifecycle GHG emissions for most use phase scenarios. This holds as well for structural parts being designed on torsional stiffness. For structural parts designed on tension/compression or bending stiffness CFRP designs show lowest lifecycle GHG emissions. In all cases, a high share of renewable electricity mix and a short lifetime pose the steel reference in favor. It is argued that a further elaboration of the approach could substantially increase transparency between design choices and life cycle GHG emissions.