The impact of tribology on energy use and CO2 emission globally and in combustion engine and electric cars

Kenneth Holmberg (Corresponding Author), Ali Erdemir

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    293 Citations (Scopus)


    Growing concerns over energy and environmental sustainability have lately sparked worldwide interest in more efficient and cleaner transportation systems and industrial activities. Friction roughly consumes one-fifth of all energy used worldwide. One-third of all energy used in transportation goes to overcome friction. At the same time, the fruits of decades of dedicated research on all-electric vehicles powered by advanced batteries are paving the way toward a much cleaner and sustainable transportation future. In this article, we provide a short overview of what are the energy efficiency and environmental impacts of current transportation, industrial, and residential systems and how much of that efficiency is adversely affected by friction and wear losses in moving mechanical parts and components. We also touch upon recent advances in new materials, lubricants, and design changes that could reduce energy losses by 18–40%, mainly resulting from friction and wear. The savings would be up to 8.7% of the total global energy use and 1.4% of the gross national products (GNP). Finally, we calculate the energy consumption and friction losses in battery-powered electric passenger cars and show the benefit of electric cars where the total energy use is in average 3.4 times lower compared to combustion engine powered cars. The CO2 emissions are 4.5 times higher for a combustion engine car compared to an electric car when the electricity comes from renewable energy sources. Moving from fossil to renewable energy sources may cut down the energy losses due to friction in energy production by more than 60%.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)389-396
    JournalTribology International
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2019
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Electric car
    • Energy
    • Friction
    • Impact


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