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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Environmental Life-cycle Assessment of Passenger Transportation: A Detailed Methodology for Energy, Greenhouse Gas and Criteria Pollutant Inventories of Automobiles, Buses, Light Rail, Heavy Rail and Air v.2


The passenger transportation modes of auto, bus, heavy rail, light rail and air are critical systems relied upon for business and leisure. When considering their environmental effects, most studies and policy focus on the fuel use of the vehicles, and ignore the energy and other resource inputs and environmental outputs from the life cycles of necessary infrastructures, fuels, and vehicles. The goal of this project is to develop comprehensive life-cycle assessment (LCA) models to quantify the energy inputs and emissions from autos, buses, heavy rail, light rail and air transportation in the U.S. associated with the entire life cycle (design, raw materials extraction, manufacturing, construction, operation, maintenance, end-of-life) of the vehicles, infrastructures, and fuels involved in these systems. Energy inputs are quantified as well as greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant outputs. Inventory results are normalized to effects per vehicle-lifetime, VMT, and PMT. Current results show that total energy and greenhouse gas emissions increase by as much as 1.6X for automobiles, 1.4X for buses, 2.6X for light rail, 2.1X for heavy rail, and 1.3X for air over operation. Criteria air pollutant emissions increase up to 30X for automobiles, 7X for buses, 10X for light rail, 29X for heavy rail, and 9X for air.

This working paper is superceded by UCB-ITS-DS-2008-1, the Ph.D. dissertation of Mikhail Vin Chester.

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