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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The hybrid-electric vehicle lifecycle : emissions from the tailpipe and the nickel metal-hybride battery Jones, Kimberly A

Abstract

This 'manuscript-based' thesis investigates the airborne environmental releases over the lifecycle of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV) as compared to equivalent conventional internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV). The first manuscript (Chapter 2) (i) quantifies the flow of nickel in the North American economy, (ii) estimates the impact of H E V production on nickel flows, and (iii) assesses the lifecycle environmental and human health impacts from H E V battery production. The research methodology consists primarily of synthesizing information and reconciling data available from multiple sources; tabulating nickel emissions data; using material balance calculations to "close the loop"; and interviewing industry experts to reconcile discrepancies. The results show that small amounts of nickel are released to the air from the nickel-mining phase, with larger emissions of nickel expected from recycling of the H E V battery. The human health effects of excess nickel releases are likely to be small. The analysis behind the second manuscript (Chapter 3) explicitly quantifies use-phase air pollution emissions improvements. The methodology involves calculating use-phase tailpipe and fuel cycle emissions over the useful life of an H E V and comparing them to an equivalent conventional ICEV using in-use emissions testing data and regulatory estimates. The results show that HEVs provide modest tailpipe emissions improvements over ICEVs in the use-phase; however current testing methods do not accurately capture the real world behaviour of HEVs. It is found that the majority of emissions improvements of HEVs over ICEVs are achieved in the cold-start phase of the driving cycle, with total use-phase improvements of 33% for carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter, reductions in carbon monoxide emissions on the order of 50%, hydrocarbon emissions improvements of 25%, and more modest nitrogen oxide benefits over different scenarios of vehicle usage and cold-start frequency. Combined, these manuscripts quantify the human health and environmental impact of the air pollutant releases over the HEV lifecycle and find that the effects of the material extraction and post-use phases are more than compensated for in the use-phase' relative to an equivalent conventional ICEV.

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