The recent introduction of hybrid-electric powertrain technology has disrupted the automotive industry, causing significant powertrain design divergence. As this radical powertrain innovation matures, will hybrid vehicles dominate the future automotive market and does this represent a positive shift in the environmental impact of the industry? The answer to this question is sought within this paper. It seeks to take advantage of the position that the industry has reached, replacing previous theoretical studies with the first extensive empirical models of life cycle emissions and whole-life costing. A comprehensive snapshot of today’s hybrid market is presented, with detailed descriptions of the various hybrid powertrain architectures. Design data has been gathered for 44 hybrid passenger cars currently available in the US. The empirical data is used to explore the relative life cycle greenhouse gas emissions and whole-life costing of different hybrid powertrain architectures. Potential dominant designs are identified and their emissions are shown to be reduced. However, both the emissions and economic competitiveness of different hybrid powertrains are shown to vary significantly depending on how the vehicle is used.
- Hybrid powertrain architectures
- Dominant designs
- Life cycle assessment
- Whole-life costing