Civil engineer Heather MacLean examines environmental impact of automobiles from plant to scrapyard
Professor Heather MacLean
Image: Susan King
Although she leads a national research team on automotive life-cycle assessments, studies the future of hybrid electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars and takes the subway to work, the car sitting in her driveway is a rusty 1987 BMW. And although she rarely drives it, her attachment to the vehicle speaks volumes about the challenges of shifting to newer, low-emission vehicles. “I like my car because I like how it feels to drive it,” she says ruefully.
But MacLean also has a unique grasp of the impact of automobiles on the environment. As co-ordinator of a national research team using a cradle-to-grave approach to examining the creation, use and disposal of automobiles in Canada’s auto sector, MacLean is looking for ways to enhance these systems in the future, affecting both conventional and alternative fuel/propulsion system vehicles.
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