Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Powertrains in The European Context


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EUCAR, CONCAWE and JRC (the Joint Research Centre of the EU Commission) have updated their joint evaluation of the Well-to-Wheels energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for a wide range of potential future fuel and powertrain options, first published in December 2003. The specific objectives of the study remained the same:

• Establish, in a transparent and objective manner, a consensual well-to-wheels energy use
and GHG emissions assessment of a wide range of automotive fuels and powertrains
relevant to Europe in 2010 and beyond.
• Consider the viability of each fuel pathway and estimate the associated macro-economic
• Have the outcome accepted as a reference by all relevant stakeholders.
The main conclusions and observations are summarised below. We have separated the points
pertaining to energy and GHG balance (in normal font) from additional points involving
feasibility, availability and costs (in italic).


�� A Well-to-Wheels analysis is the essential basis to assess the impact of future fuel and
powertrain options.

  • Both fuel production pathway and powertrain efficiency are key to GHG
    emissions and energy use.
  • A common methodology and data-set has been developed which provides a
    basis for the evaluation of pathways. It can be updated as technologies evolve.

�� A shift to renewable/low fossil carbon routes may offer a significant GHG reduction
potential but generally requires more energy. The specific pathway is critical.

�� Results must further be evaluated in the context of volume potential, feasibility,
practicability, costs and customer acceptance of the pathways investigated.

  • A shift to renewable/low carbon sources is currently expensive.
  • GHG emission reductions always entail costs but high cost does not always
    result in large GHG reductions
  • No single fuel pathway offers a short term route to high volumes of “low carbon” fuel
  • Contributions from a number of technologies/routes will be needed
  • A wider variety of fuels may be expected in the market
  • Blends with conventional fuels and niche applications should be considered if
    they can produce significant GHG reductions at reasonable cost.

�� Large scale production of synthetic fuels or hydrogen from coal or gas offers the
potential for GHG emissions reduction via CO2 capture and storage and this merits
further study.

  • Advanced biofuels and hydrogen have a higher potential for substituting fossil fuels than
    conventional biofuels.
  • High costs and the complexities around material collection, plant size, efficiency and
    costs, are likely to be major hurdles for the large scale development of these processes.
  • Transport applications may not maximize the GHG reduction potential of renewable

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