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  • Using a full life-cycle assessment (LCA) approach is the only way automakers can accurately measure, and reduce, the energy consumed by their vehicles over their lifespan

What is LCA?

A full life cycle assessment (LCA) of a vehicle’s emissions is an essential step towards sustainable use of the world’s resources. An LCA covers production of the raw materials, use of the product, and its end of life including recycling and reuse. It enables manufacturers and material suppliers to accurately evaluate the potential environmental impact of their products or materials over their life cycle.

In the words of ArcelorMittal’s Head of Sustainability, Jean-Pierre Birat: “Life Cycle 'thinking' creates transparency… as it enables businesses and consumers to better understand the complete life cycle of a product, a service or a process.”

The three phases of a complete life cycle assessment

End-of-life recycling

When it comes to end of life, there is almost no industrial recycling capacity for materials such as CFRP. While the European Aluminium Association claims a recycling rate of around 90%, different studies of the end-of-life shredding process for vehicles show that the aluminium recycling rate is actually between 60 and 70% in practice.

100% recyclable steel

By contrast steel is 100% recyclable. As most steel is magnetic it is extremely easy to extract from waste streams, ensuring that about 96% of steel is recovered and recycled. Steel does not lose its properties during recycling. According to the worldsteel association (, every tonne of recycled steel saves an average of:

  • 1.5 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions
  • 1.4 tonnes of iron ore
  • 13 gigajoules of primary energy

Steel’s recycling properties also make it an excellent material to comply with the European Commission’s End-of-Life of Vehicles (ELV) Directive. In fact, the steel currently in use around the world is providing a sustainable stock of material which future generations will be able to reuse or recycle with limited environmental impact.

Reducing emissions from the automotive sector requires a full picture of the emissions produced during all phases of the material’s life. Only through accurate LCA can the true environmental benefits of steels become clear.

Life Cycle Assessment: how to reach effective global solutions?