Life Cycle Air Emissions Impacts and Ownership Costs of Light-Duty Vehicles Using Natural Gas As a Primary Energy Source

This paper aims to comprehensively distinguish among the merits of different vehicles using a common primary energy source. In this study, we consider compressed natural gas (CNG) use directly in conventional vehicles (CV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), and natural gas-derived electricity (NG-e) use in plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEV). This study evaluates the incremental life cycle air emissions (climate change and human health) impacts and life cycle ownership costs of non-plug-in (CV and HEV) and plug-in light-duty vehicles. Replacing a gasoline CV with a CNG CV, or a CNG CV with a CNG HEV, can provide life cycle air emissions impact benefits without increasing ownership costs; however, the NG-e BEV will likely increase costs (90% confidence interval: $1000 to $31 000 incremental cost per vehicle lifetime). Furthermore, eliminating HEV tailpipe emissions via plug-in vehicles has an insignificant incremental benefit, due to high uncertainties, with emissions cost benefits between −$1000 and $2000. Vehicle criteria air contaminants are a relatively minor contributor to life cycle air emissions impacts because of strict vehicle emissions standards. Therefore, policies should focus on adoption of plug-in vehicles in nonattainment regions, because CNG vehicles are likely more cost-effective at providing overall life cycle air emissions impact benefits.