Automobile conceived from the ground up for zero-emission mobility

road straight

The world's first premium automobile conceived from the ground up for zero-emission mobility is on the market.

The new BMW battery electric vehicle emits 30 to 50% less life-cycle greenhouse gases than equivalent conventional vehicles. The vehicle has received several of the motor industry’s international awards. This includes the World Car Design of the Year Award 2014 and the World Green Car Award 2014 – gleaned at the New York International Auto Show in April 2014.

BMW Group opted for a full life-cycle assessment (LCA) of its car-making process. The company gained certification to two leading LCA standards, ISO 14040 Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and framework and ISO 14044 Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Requirements and guidelines.

ISOfocus caught up with the Product Sustainability Team at BMW responsible for leading the project.

ISOfocus: Can you tell us how the BMW i mobility concept was born?

BMW Product Sustainability Team: The BMW i and its BMW i3 car were born out of the inspirational “project i” initiative, a think-tank created to develop sustainable mobility solutions and redefine the manufacturing of cars.

ISOfocus: Building a visionary car is a huge undertaking. How did you get started?

BMW Product Sustainability Team: To make BMW i3 – the first zero-emissions mass-produced BMW – a reality, we knew we had to take a serious look at our product life cycle. So, we carried out a full life cycle assessment (LCA) of the concept car in order to get a clear picture of all environmental aspects. We used ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 to help us monitor and reach our targets.

ISOfocus: How did you go about implementing the life-cycle assessment?

BMW Product Sustainability Team: The LCA was performed using the product sustainability software GaBi© to help gather valuable life-cycle inventory data and to obtain feedback during the use phase of the vehicle.

ISOfocus: What have been the main benefits of LCA on your production process?

BMW Product Sustainability Team: The LCA was used as a monitoring and decision-making tool for implementing performance-enhancing measures.

Now, compared with conventional vehicles of similar size and performance, the BMW i3 that is on the market today has a global warming potential (GWP) along its life cycle at least a third lower if powered with EU electricity mix in the use phase, and over 50 % lower when powered with renewable energy.

ISOfocus: You chose to get certified by an external expert. How important was this for you?

BMW Product Sustainability Team: Being certified to ISO 14044 by a neutral third party was a vital step in the process to ensure the scientific and technical validity of the LCA results and guarantee the transparency and consistency of the study report.

ISOfocus: Any tips for businesses thinking of performing a life-cycle assessment of their environmental sustainability?

BMW Product Sustainability Team: Performing an assessment of a product’s life from cradle to grave is by definition a big project. Work methodically and take time to do things properly. And enlist the help of external consultants to keep you on the right track.

Buy ISO 14044:2006 Buy AS/NZS ISO 14040:1998

Published in transport.