This research aims to advance the existing sustainability assessment framework for alternative passenger cars with a combination of life-cycle sustainability assessment and multi-criteria decision-making. To this end, sixteen macro-level sustainability impacts are evaluated for seven different vehicle types: internal combustion vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with all-electric ranges of 16, 32, 48, and 64 km of electric powered drive, and battery electric vehicles. Additionally, two battery charging scenarios are considered in this analysis with respect to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles; Scenario 1 is based on existing electric power infrastructure in the U.S., while Scenario 2 is an extreme scenario in which electricity to power battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles is generated entirely via solar charging stations. In this study, optimal vehicle distributions are calculated based on the environmental, social, and economic impacts of all vehicle types for each scenario. Various distributions are presented in accordance with the relative importance assigned to each indicator, with different weighting scenarios applied to account for variability in decision-makers' priorities, such as the assignment of higher weights to socio-economic indicators (e.g. maximizing employment) and lower weights to environmental indicators (e.g. minimizing greenhouse gas emissions). In a balanced weighting case (i.e. when environmental and socio-economic indicators have equal importance) under Scenario 1, hybrid electric vehicles have the largest fleet share, comprising 91% of the optimal U.S. passenger car fleet, while internal combustion vehicles dominate the optimal fleet with 99.5% of the optimal fleet share when only socio-economic indicators are given priority. On the other hand, in a balanced weighting case under Scenario 2, the optimal U.S. passenger car fleet consists entirely (100%) of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with 16 km of all-electric range. In the majority of the considered weighting scenarios, battery electric vehicles were not given any share of the optimal vehicle fleet. The proposed framework can be used as a practical decision-making platform when deciding which vehicle type to promote given each vehicle type's respective environmental, social, and economic impacts. Considering that decision makers are often highly influenced by the “silo effect”, i.e. a lack of communication among different agencies and departments (national or international), the proposed framework provides a holistic system-based approach to minimize the silo effect and can enhance the efficiency of future inter/cross/trans-disciplinary works. Furthermore, the outcomes of this study can pave the way for advancement in the state-of-the-art and state-of-the-practice of current sustainability research.
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