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Q: Energy required to manufacture typical vehicle ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Energy required to manufacture typical vehicle
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: iota-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 16 Jan 2006 07:06 PST
Expires: 15 Feb 2006 07:06 PST
Question ID: 433981
In order to move a vehicle to retail sale a great deal of energy is
consumed.  Some of the consumption points are the mining of the raw
materials, the petroleum processing to produce the plastics and
running the plant where the vehicle is assembled.

I would like more than one (and independent) source of the total
energy required to produce a typical (say, Ford Crown Victoria car,
F-150 truck or E-150 van) vehicle ready for retail sale.

Extra, related information related to the environmental impact is a
plus and runs to a tip (which can easily exceed the initial price). 
Government sponsored research or that obviously distanced from the car
manufacturing industry is a plus.  Energy-related information related
to the end-of-life expenditures (i.e., what does it take to reduce the
vehicle to reusable parts) is likewise a plus.

For example, one search strategy...
energy (require OR consume) manufacture (car OR auto OR automobile OR
vehicle) produced the informative link  Please don't include
this study in the results.
Subject: Re: Energy required to manufacture typical vehicle
Answered By: siliconsamurai-ga on 16 Jan 2006 11:58 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi, thank you for bringing your question to us here at Google Answers.

Much less energy is used to manufacture a vehicle than is used by the
vehicle during its useful lifetime so a small improvement in fuel
efficency would have a significent impact on the energy footprint of
the motor vehicle industry.

What you are looking for is what is known as a lifecycle energy
analysis (you probably already knew that.) Please bear in mind that
with all the variables involved there are no really specific answers,
but the averages are well understood and most reports seem to vary by
only a few percent on the important points.

You said you didn?t want any references to the Institute for Lifecycle
Energy Analysis, presumably because you are already familiar with
their work, so I left out any links and didn?t search any
of their pages, if there is work here which duplicates their
information that is mere coincidence, I used different sources.

To get your initial question out of the way fast, it takes about 73
Giga-Joules of energy to manufacture a vehicle. This is less than 10
percent of the total lifecycle energy consumption of a vehicle. See
the detailed explanation and calculation below, along with information
about fuel energy consumption and recycling costs and links to
detailed energy costs of various vehicle materials.

Some of the information below addresses the topic directly, other
links are more environmentally oriented, and still others are included
because they show similar results and therefore support the main
source, a government analysis from the Argonne National Laboratory.

A California-oriented paper

states that direct tailpipe emission of CO2 accounts for 68% of the
average vehicle lifecycle carbon emissions, with 21 percent linked to
production and delivery of fuel, and 11 percent are due to
manufacturing, including materials production.

Ford Motor Company

states that an average Taurus class family sedan in the 1,500 kg
weight range (which would be similar to a Ford F-150 pickup) has a
total lifecycle energy consumption of 961 GigaJoules, 21,000 kb of
hydrocarbons are consumed, and 60,000 kg of carbon dioxide are

That is based on a vehicle mileage life of 120,000 miles.

Ford?s report (which is cited by some environmental groups so it is
probably pretty accurate) also specifically addresses environmental

There is a 73-page report on the carbon impact of automakers at

There is a report on automaker rankings at

This is from the Union of Concerned Scientists

This is mostly related to average new vehicle carbon emissions and
shows that Honda is always at the top. I include this only because of
the very large percentage of lifecycle energy consumption which is due
to operation of the vehicle.

There is a very detailed report on Lifecycle Energy Savings Potential
related to increased use of aluminum in vehicles at

This report is from the Argonne National Laboratory and looks at both
existing vehicles and proposed light weight aluminum vehicles.

Page 7 begins coverage of energy production for production and recycling.

This starts by explaining that while lighter cars use less fuel to
run, the materials involved may require more energy to produce in the
first place.

The total energy for production of virgin (mined and refined, not
recycled) sheet steel is about 65 Megajoules/kg and recycled steel
costs are a bit less at 52 MJ/kg.

Thus, recycling won?t have a major impact on energy savings, although
it can have important beneficial consequences for the environment.

For cast iron (engine blocks and suspension parts) the cost is about
37MJ/kg for what is known as gray iron castings with most energy
consumption going to coal and coke production ? cast iron, as the
report states, is mostly made from recycled material anyway.

The story is very different for virgin sheet or wrought aluminum which
uses 231MJ/kg to produce but only 52 MJ/kg to recycle.

The environmental impact of virgin aluminum production is not
proportional to the raw energy consumption during manufacture since a
lot of comes from hydroelectric generation (20%) which produces no
direct carbon emissions, although it does produce heat pollution and
hydroelectric dams can have huge environmental impact. A significant
percentage of the aluminum energy consumption comes from coal.

There are specific numbers in this report which will let you calculate
various environmental impact parameters from altering vehicle
composition or material sources.

Cast aluminum, like cast iron, comes mostly from recycled metals and
only consumes about 44MJ/kg.

Page 9 of the report initiates the coverage of assembly and recycling energy.

One estimate cited is that it takes about 3.8MJ/kg to recycle a
vehicle and the report attributes about one-third of this to
electricity. Environmental impact will depend a lot on the source of
the energy used in recycling.

The Argonne National Labs study also estimates the primary consumption
of energy in the lifecycle of a mid-sized passenger car (about the
same weight as the full-sized Ford pickup you mention) at 867GJ of
primary energy as fuel (gasoline).

Manufacturing and recycling costs for assembly as well as materials
production are about 79 GJ, or about 8 percent of the direct engine
fuel consumption.

YOU INITIALLY ASK, 79GJ of energy to manufacture AND recycle a vehicle
at the end of its useful life. The recycling cost is about 3.8MJ/kg
times 1500kg vehicle weight or 5.7GJ. That makes the total
manufacturing cost for an average passenger vehicle or consumer-type
truck about 73GJ.

For a vehicle using a lot of aluminum to reduce weight by about 19
percent, the total fuel consumption for the vehicle lifecycle is about
759 GJ, or 12.5 percent less energy consumption.

The energy used in manufacturing and recycling is about 66 GJ or 9
percent of the fuel consumption.

The report concludes that the intensive use of aluminum to reduce
weight could reduce fuel usage by about 15 percent and that the
increased amount of energy required in manufacturing and recycling
isn?t especially relevant since that is only about 1/10th the total
lifecycle energy consumption of a hydrocarbon fueled vehicle.

Reading between the lines, using aluminum in the cast components such
as the engine, reduce weight significantly, hence reduce fuel
consumption, and consumes very little energy in manufacturing because
cast aluminum only costs about 15 percent more in energy consumption
than cast iron and weights far less.

The report also includes a chart showing the average material content
in U.S. built passenger cars and aluminum intensive vehicles as well
as production and recycling energy consumption for automotive

Another chart breaks down the source of energy for the various
materials into coal, oil, natural gas, electricity (including
hydroelectric percentage.)

Depending on exactly what information you want, the charts in this
report will let you calculate the energy involved in each vehicle
broken down by every material class which would let you estimate
energy savings from increasing or decreasing the percentage of various
components included in the vehicle design.

When it comes to environmental impact, overseas production of
materials or vehicles could have a significant impact since many other
countries derive a much larger percentage of their energy production
from nuclear power plants.

I have also provided a considerable amount of information about the
actual carbon emissions involved which can be quite different from the
total energy consumed because different materials will rely on
different energy sources.

You can find CO2 and lifecycle energy consumption data for Toyota
vehicles, both fuel cell and gasoline, at

Fuel Cell vehicle carbon emissions
Fuel production 54 percent
Vehicle production 13 percent
Material production 32 percent

Gasoline vehicle carbon emissions
Driving 72 percent
Fuel production 8 percent
Vehicle production 6 percent
Material production 12 percent

A Joule is one watt per second of energy consumption or about
one-quarter of a calorie.
A 60 watt light bulb uses 60 Joules of energy.
A Joule is about equal to three-quarters of a foot pound.

1055 Joules equal one BTU (British Thermal Unit)

Google Search Terms
automaker energy lifecycle

For further reading see 

?Electric and Gasoline Vehicle Lifecycle Cost and Energy-User Model,
April 2000 (278 pages).

?The design and lifecycle cost model designs a motor vehicle to meet
range and performance requirements specified by the modeler, and then
calculates the initial retail cost and total lifecycle cost of the
designed vehicle. The model can be used to investigate the
relationship between the lifecycle cost -- the total cost of vehicle
ownership and operation over the life of the vehicle -- and important
parameters in the design and use of the vehicle.?

The role of energy in manufacturing

If it is of interest, you can find a presentation about lifecycle
assessment procedures at

There is no data here, this is just a lesson in how to apply lifecycle analysis.

I believe this research provides answers to all of your questions, if
you think something is missing, please post a request for
clarification but bear in mind that I can only post so much of the
original data here ? I have cited hundreds of pages of scientific
reports which contain many additional details.

Thank you for bringing your question to Google Answers.

Clarification of Answer by siliconsamurai-ga on 17 Jan 2006 15:24 PST
Hi, not really a clarification, just additional information which has
only become available and which I thought would interest someone who
asked about the environmental impact of vehicle production.

The environmental aspect of such topics is extremely complex and just
became much more so in the past few weeks when Nature published
reports which go counter to everything environmentalists have been
calling for.

As summarized on page 13 of the January 13 issue of Financial Times,
It has only recently been discovered that trees are responsible for
generating up to 30 percent of atmospheric methane, a hydrocarbon
which contributes much more per pound to global warming than CO2

In addition, power plants which spew out CO2 also produce aerosols in
large quantities and it turns out that these go a long way toward
countering the global warming contributed by the power plant.

There is also very bad news for hydropower which is new late last year.

If you would like more on this topic, let me know by posting another
question to my attention.

BTW, I operate an organic ranch/farm and am big on conservation, the
news I cited in this note is not anti-environmental, it is just the
most recent science.

Clarification of Answer by siliconsamurai-ga on 18 Jan 2006 04:24 PST
Hi, glad to do it, it was very interesting.

Thank you for the nice tip.

No need to reply to this.
iota-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
Competent and efficient...thanks

Subject: Re: Energy required to manufacture typical vehicle
From: mcbanx-ga on 30 Jan 2006 09:33 PST
You state in your clarification added on January 17th that the
aerosols produced in large quantities counter the effects of global
warming. This is not true, please follow link for more information.
Subject: Re: Energy required to manufacture typical vehicle
From: siliconsamurai-ga on 30 Jan 2006 10:03 PST
mcbanx, If you want to post a question I will answer in detail,
otherwise, check your back copies of Financial Times or New Scientist
for the most recent information.

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