Hypercars: A Market-Oriented Approach to Meeting Life Cycle Environmental Goals

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This paper from 1997 discusses the growing social and regulatory pressures that are compelling automakers to make cars with higher quality and lower life cycle environmental impacts. Examples include rules and incentives for clean manufacturing, low-emission vehicles, and recycling. Yet focusing on any single issue or stage of the car’s life cycle in isolation can easily turn into a zero-sum game: any improvement in one area can worsen other issues or stages, or even render the car unmarketable or unprofitable. This paper describes a system-level approach to car design that could minimize life cycle environmental impacts without sacrificing the features that make cars attractive to consumers, such as price, performance, safety, comfort, and styling. The paper describes how a car optimized to meet market and regulatory requirements can also have a minimal life cycle environmental impact. Skillfully combining these features would create a desirable product that not only would perform well, but also would improve fuel efficiency and emissions while creating other important life cycle benefits.