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The Energy Footprint of Automotive Electronic Sensors...

by Kristina O Armstrong, Sujit Das, Joe Cresko
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Journal Name
Sustainable Materials and Technologies
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Information and communication technologies (ICT) have emerged as one of the leading technologies to reduce global emissions, particularly in the mobility sector. Automotive electronics, such as sensors/actuators and microcontrollers (commonly known as electronic control units (ECU) which control one or more of the electrical systems or subsystems in a vehicle), play a key role in ICT. Sensors/actuators are key in electronic ICT devices, starting with the data collection and data communication with the internet. The latest two big trends of electrification and automation in vehicles, are projected to increase the use of worldwide automotive sensors from 7.5 billion units in 2017 to 11.0 billion units by the year 2024. A representative state-of-the art automotive sensor system, (i.e., an ultrasonic backup system), including the ECUs controlling the vehicle electrical systems/subsystems, has been considered to estimate the energy footprint in terms of manufacturing and operational energy of global automotive sensors use. A widely used life cycle energy assessment method (i.e., cumulative energy demand) was used as both direct and indirect (including the extraction, manufacturing, and disposal of the raw and auxiliary materials) energy use can be considered for the energy footprint estimation. The embodied manufacturing energy impacts of the system was estimated to be 559 MJ/system, compared to the 417 MJ/system for lifetime system power and additional gasoline use. The share of purchased energy to the embodied energy where the upstream energy isn't included in the former case, is less than 10% and ~ 85% for the component manufacturing and vehicle operation energy uses, respectively. As the purpose of this ultrasonic backup system is to prevent rear crashes, an estimated 1.0 MJ/system is avoided from reduced lifetime vehicular repairs (from an estimated 11% chance of requiring a rear bumper replacement). While all of this is small compared to the overall automotive manufacturing and use energy, the 11 billion automotive sensors expected to be produced in 2024 could require 1540 PJ for manufacturing and those sensors would require an additional 780–1150 PJ for lifetime energy use.