Impacts of life cycle inventory databases on life cycle assessments: A review by means of a drivetrain case study

Matthias Kalverkamp, Eckard Helmers, Alexandra Pehlken
Journal of Cleaner Production
Since the beginning of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), practitioners were discussing the standards and the interoperability of life cycle inventory databases because such databases suffer from different data formats making cross-database applications difficult. This study explores how the choice for a life cycle inventory (LCI) database influences the result of a LCA. To investigate this influence, the study also addresses the question of whether electric cars are advantageous when compared with their combustion-engine siblings. The study builds on a comparative LCA modelling of a combustion engine vs. an electric vehicle that used the ecoinvent database. This life cycle is modelled again, using the GaBi professional database and then compared against the ecoinvent-based LCA. The results provide new insights as they identify limitations due to the LCI databases applied. The advantageousness of an LCA of electric cars may depend on the LCI database used, already considering the effect of energy use in the life cycle’s use phase. This paper contributes to the limited discussion on LCA comparability across LCI databases and their application. This discussion is mainly addressed by the GLAD network so far. LCA practitioners should put additional emphasis on the reflection of LCA results and LCA stakeholders should be encouraged to further analyze and understand their results, for example, by employing alternative LCI databases. Ultimately, the LCA community and LCI data providers should aim to achieve greater interoperability of LCI data.
10 / 2020