• TRB 100th Annual Meeting - A Virtual Event

      January 2021

    • Online Program

Annual Meeting Event Detail

Workshop 117

Life-Cycle-Based Regulatory Reform for Light-Duty Vehicle Sector: New Technologies and Policy Pathways for Deep Decarbonization

Sunday, January 08 9:00 AM- 12:00 PM ET
Yanzhi Xu, Texas A&M Transportation Institute,
Steven Cliff, California Air Resources Board (CARB),

Katie Estabrook, California Air Resources Board (CARB)
Sponsored by:
Standing Committee on Transportation and Sustainability (ADD40)

Ecofriendly vehicle makers are using different materials that shift some greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles to the vehicle-production phase. With progress comes more exposure of emissions to disadvantaged communities and other harms. How will regulations and compliance change to sustain business development and continue protecting people and the environment? Panelists consider opportunities to bridge gaps between foundational research on economic, environmental, and behavioral aspects of new policies.


Historically, tailpipe regulations have served as an effective proxy for managing emissions from passenger vehicles; vehicle operation dominated emissions and fleets relied largely on a single fuel. Today, an increasing proportion of vehicles are relying on electricity and biofuel pathways, where emissions occur upstream (prior to vehicle operation), and vary over space and time.  This increased divergence from emissions and use (mobility) may increase the exposure of low income or disadvantaged groups and, at the same time, provide an opportunity to identify, monitor and mitigate upstream impacts.  Vehicles are using more lightweight materials, electric motors, and batteries that shift an increasing proportion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from vehicles to the vehicle production phase.  New technologies are changing the economics of vehicle ownership and operation (i.e. charge management, shared vehicles, mobility services, and vehicle autonomy), signaling potentially structural shifts to the provision of personal mobility.  Given these significant changes to vehicles and energy carriers, how must regulatory and measurement processes (and testing procedures) be changed to accommodate changes in technologies, materials, and fuels?  In this workshop, we discuss the scope of technologies, processes, and performance metrics policy should consider in trying to achieve deep de-carbonization of the transportation sector. There is a critical opportunity to bridge the gap between foundational research on economic, environmental, and behavioral aspects of new vehicle technologies with vehicle emissions policies, and perhaps the new ways that personal mobility and vehicles will function.


Workshop Sponsorship (Proposed):

ADD 40 - Committee on Sustainability (Steve Cliff, Chair)

ADC80 - Alternative Fuels (Tim Lipman, Chair)

ADC70 - Transportation Energy (Paul Leiby, Chair)


Workshop Goals:

·         Suggest options, metrics, and opportunities for the design and implementation of a coherent and efficient regulatory regime that:

o   has environmental integrity affecting the whole sector

o   achieves timely reductions with certainty

o   considers cost-effectiveness of alternative regulatory structures

o   encourages resilient, market driven technology systems

·         Bring research relevant to understanding the environmental impacts of vehicle technologies and fuels over their life cycle into the policy conversation

·         Improve understanding of the environmental, economic, and social impacts of new vehicle and mobility technologies




Draft Agenda:


8:30 AM         Welcome, Coffee, Introductions


9:00 AM         Goal Setting Discussion, Revise Key Questions


9:15 AM         Session 1: Speaker

9:35 AM         Session 1: Discussion


10:00 AM       Session 2: Speaker

10:20 AM       Session 2: Discussion


10:50 AM       Session 3: Speaker

11:10 AM       Session 3: Discussion


11:30 AM       Break Out Group Discussion

11:50 AM       Extending the Conversation


Session Descriptions:


Session 1:


What’s on the Table: The Scope of Regulation and Target Setting

Speaker: Karl Simon (EPA, Director of Transportation and Climate Division) discusses how regulators view the role of current technologies in shaping future vehicle and fuel emissions policy, the target setting process for 2025-2050, the limits of current statutory authority, and the limits of administrative implement-ability.



Policy makers will continue to look to new technologies as a solution for achieving emissions reduction targets.  There is a clear need for more robust policies that: 

·         capture emissions reductions from different vehicle and fuel technologies

·         consider upstream and materials-related emissions

·         allow for ready comparison of costs of abatement

·         incentivize behavior change and leverage continued technological development


Session 2:


Barriers to Implementation: Building Institutional Capacity for LCA among Vehicle Manufacturers

LCA can be data and labor intensive, and is often discussed as a costly and largely implausible barrier for industry to adopt as a standard. Speaker:  John Viera, Director at Ford Motors, discusses the experience of a vehicle OEM with conducting LCAs, how LCA might be better implemented at the vehicle design stage, and the barriers to conducting product LCAs.



Voluntarily, many OEMs are increasing their institutional knowledge of LCA, but policy will be important in moving from disclosure and reporting targets to performance standards.

·         What is the role of government/policy in creating standards for measurement, data reporting, and data quality in vehicle LCA?

·         What are cost / barriers to / challenges for implementing LCA in a vehicle supply chain compared to the magnitude of emissions reduction?

·         How can policy incentivize increased LCA integration into vehicle design decisions?


Session 3:

 Switching to fuels with large upstream emissions: choosing a metric and method for vehicle emissions regulations

Good policy making and regulation should be transparent, enforceable, easy to administer, and effective. The transition to transport fuels where most emissions occurs upstream creates a challenge for regulators and policy. What new data are needed? What performance metrics should be used in these changing energy world? Professor Dan Sperling discusses the data and analytic basis for vehicle emissions regulation in the future.


Regulators need appropriate and enforceable metrics that capture the upstream emissions associated with vehicle fuels of the future: electricity, hydrogen, and biofuels. The choice of metric is central to decisions about the design of policy mechanisms, data requirements, and testing and enforcement protocol, and has important implications for how emissions are reduced across communities.

·      What are appropriate metrics for comparing vehicle technologies? Efficiency, lifecycle emissions, vehicle use, zero-emissions VMT?

·      Which metrics better capture the costs, benefits, and uncertainty of prospective low carbon technologies—and are best suited to policy and regulatory processes?

·      How might differing emissions across cities and states be addressed?




·         Create an opportunity for some brief small group discussion

·         Try to balance group roles/perspectives (i.e. policy, operations, economics, environmental)

·         Produce a best consensus response to guiding questions from sessions


How should policy address?

·         measurement methodology, accuracy, and verification of emissions

·         barriers to commercialization and capital formation

·         target setting

·         environmental justice and equity


·         Discussion Ideas: Transportation wide system cap and trade: carbon is the currency, allow firms and abatement technologies to compete in an open market, lowest cost of abatement wins

·         Securitize emissions reductions or technology credit systems, use credit certification as a guaranteed source of revenue, and allow OEMs to get incentives/derive value from expanding fuel infrastructure

·         Use occupancy (person mile travelled – PMT) or fuel based (electric-VMT) metrics to capture design decisions affecting behavior/operation

·         Provide incentives for climate reductions based on local environmental impacts

Title Presentation Number
What’s on the Table: The Scope of Regulation and Target Setting
Karl Simon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Switching to Fuels with Large Upstream Emissions: Choosing a Metric and Method for Vehicle Emissions Regulations
Daniel Sperling, University of California, Davis
Barriers to Implementation: Building Institutional Capacity for LCA Among Vehicle Manufacturers
John Viera, Ford Motor Company

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