Life cycle assessment of an automotive factory: Identifying challenges for the decarbonization of automotive production – A case study

Malte Gebler*, Juan Felipe Cerdas, Sebastian Thiede, Christoph Herrmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
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Climate change stabilization at 1.5–2 °C requires the transition to low-carbon societies, which imposes the need to decarbonize automotive manufacturing in accordance with the Science-Based Target Initiative for industries. The decarbonization of an automotive factory requires a holistic and systemic understanding of all ecologically-relevant resource flows, the implementation of adequate mitigation solutions and a life-cycle thinking in planning and operation. The application of a life cycle perspective on a factory has merely been conceptual, which imposes the need for a the development of an adequate systemic understanding, a quantified analysis and the identification of challenges associated with decarbonization. A Life Cycle Assessment has been conducted to quantify the life cycle of a state-of-the-art automotive factory (for the first time), identify decarbonization challenges and provide a differentiated analysis as a basis for planning and decision-making in practice. The applied case study provided various insights: (i) the use stage represents the most GWP-intensive life cycle stage; (ii) efficiency, substitutional and compensation approaches are necessary to achieve a full decarbonization; (iii) use stage-related mitigation is not sufficient to achieve a low-pathway (iv) decarbonization requires the interplay of planners, operators and suppliers of process material, machinery and construction and (vi) electric vehicle production increases the GWP-intensity of the production. Despite uncertainties in data inventory and modelling - the presented case represents a first but valid approach to identify transformative challenges of an automotive factory life cycle for sustainable development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122330
JournalJournal of cleaner production
Early online date5 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Automotive factory
  • Decarbonization
  • GWP
  • LCA
  • Life cycle
  • n/a OA procedure


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