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Full assessment - WTW + LCA

zero vehicle emissions

The scope of greenhouse gas (and air pollutant) emissions estimation and the associated terminology can be confusing. For instance, ‘well-to-wheel’ (WTW) greenhouse gas emissions include all emissions related to fuel production – often referred to as the fuel-cycle – in other words, processing, distribution (fossil transport fuels, electricity, hydrogen) and on-road use.


An even more comprehensive scope is included in a life-cycle assessment (LCA), which estimates ‘cradle-to-grave’ emissions and accounts for both fuel-cycle emissions (WTW) and vehicle-cycle emissions (material and vehicle production as well as end of life, recycling or scrapping).


Another commonly used way is to refer to Scope 1, 2 or 3 emissions. Scope 1 accounts for “direct emissions”, Scope 2 for “indirect emissions related to the generation of purchased energy” and Scope 3 for “indirect emissions from other upstream and downstream activitities” (suppliers, extraction, production, etc.).


TER has conducted LCAs for Australian passenger cars in 2022 and for Australian trucks in 2024. We have developed an innovative, fast and cost-effective LCA approach to compare the emissions performance of different vehicle types such as fossil-fuelled internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEV). TER used a statistical approach to quantify the uncertainty in the results, which is important when comparing different technology options. The work has been published in open access papers that can be found here (passenger vehicles) and here (trucks)

TER research shows that the use phase dominates total life-cycle GHG emissions per kilometer for Australian vehicles, accounting for about 50-90% of total lifecycle emissions, the actual share depending on vehicle type, power train and year of assessment.

In June 2023 TER published an independent study into greenhouse gas emissions from Australian road transport in 2019 (baseline) and 2050. The research question is will we achieve net zero in 2050? This is a WTW assessment, which captures the bulk of emissions for future transport and is - in TER's view - a minimum requirement for future emissions forecasting.

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