All Collections
Ecochain Mobius
Next steps
Mobius - How to: Model transport
Mobius - How to: Model transport

Learn how to calculate the environmental impact of any transport and logistics in Ecochain Mobius.

Emily Lalonde avatar
Written by Emily Lalonde
Updated this week

Transportation plays a role in the environmental impact of products, encompassing the movement of raw materials, goods, and waste across various stages of their life cycle. Understanding how to accurately model transport in Mobius is essential for conducting comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and optimizing sustainability efforts. This article answers the following questions:

  1. How to calculate ton kilometers? Step 1 in modeling transport.

  2. How to link transport to objects? Step 2 in modeling transport.

  3. How to select transport datasets? Step 3 in modeling transport.

  4. How to scale transport? Step 4 in modeling transport.

Don't feel like reading an article? Watch video tutorials on steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 instead!

How to calculate ton kilometers? Step 1 in modeling transport

Transportation impact is usually quantified using ton kilometers (tkm), representing the transport of one metric ton over one kilometer. It’s essential to know because ecoinvent, the most common database in Mobius, uses tkm as the functional unit for their transport datasets. Here's how to calculate it:

1. Identify variables: Before you get started, you must know the following:

  • Transportation method: Determine the mode of transport. For example, truck (lorry), ship, train, or airplane.

Note - Transportation method: One object may use several transportation methods. Be sure to account for all of them separately when modeling transport. Transportation modes can vary significantly in environmental impact.

  • Distance traveled: Measure the distance between relevant locations, like supplier and factory. Kilometers (km) is the preferred unit for distance in Mobius.

  • Mass of transported goods: Obtain the weight of the product or raw materials being transported for each respective leg. Tons (t) is the preferred unit for mass for the environmental impact of transport.

Note - Distances: It is possible you do not know where your sourced material comes from. In this case, you can either (i) estimate the distance to still be able to estimate the tkms, or (ii) use ‘market for’ (ecoinvent) datasets that incorporate a representative amount of transportation within the dataset itself

2. Calculate ton kilometers (tkms): Multiply the weight of the goods (in tons) by the transportation distance (in kilometers) to obtain tkm.

  • Example: If transporting 0.22 kg of bleach over 260 km, convert kg to tons (0.22 kg / 1000 = 0.00022 tons) and multiply by the distance (0.00022 * 260 = 0.0572 tkm).

Video tutorial

Watch Emma explain these concepts in our tutorial:

How to link transport to objects? Step 2 in modeling transport

Once you've calculated ton kilometers (tkm), it's time to incorporate them into your product or material models. While you can add transport as separate items to your Product’s inventory, we typically recommend adding it to the specific material. In the end, all transport impacts are object-specific. Here’s how that is done:

1. Navigate to the relevant object: Access the Product inventory of the product to which you want to add transport data.

2. Add transport as a subitem: Click the plus sign (+) next to the object you wish to add transport, add a new subitem, and create a transport object, specifying the tkm value calculated in Step 1 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Adding a transport item to an object in Mobius.

Video tutorial

Watch Emma explain these concepts in our tutorial:

How to select transport datasets? Step 3 in modeling transport

Finding the right dataset is crucial for accurately modeling the impact of any object in Mobius. Here are some strategies to streamline the process for transportation datasets:

1. Select a database: Utilize the filter tool to choose a database (version) in Mobius, like Ecoinvent (v3.8), to access a wide range of transport datasets.

2. Search for keywords: Use specific keywords (e.g., "transport," "freight," "sea") to narrow down search results and find relevant datasets.

Pro tip - Keywords: Use the following terms to help ease your dataset search process.

  • Transport: Transport in general.

  • Unspecified: Average transport mode (with average load capacity and engine emission standard). Most users use this when they don’t know the average load capacity or engine emission standard.

  • Lorry: Transport by truck.

  • Lorry with reefer: Transport by truck with refrigeration

  • Freight: Transport of goods.

  • Passenger: Transport of persons.

  • Sea: Transport by sea.

  • Air: Transport by air.

  • Container ship: Transport of a container by ship.

  • Container ship with reefer: Transport of a container by ship with refrigeration.

  • EURO3-6: The EURO emission standard of a truck: from 3 to 6.

  • Metric ton: There are small, medium, and large-sized trucks available. The size of a truck is expressed in loading capacity. The following options are most frequently used: 3.5-7.5 metric ton, 7.5-16 metric ton, 16-32 metric ton, >32 metric ton

3. Filter options: Use filtering options based on category (e.g., ‘Transportation and storage’) or location to refine your search.

Video tutorial

Watch Emma explain these concepts in our tutorial:

How to scale transport? Step 4 in modeling transport

In instances where multiple objects share identical transportation routes but differ in weight, scalable transport modeling offers efficiency. However, ton kilometer (tkm), ecoinvent’s functional unit, can be abstract because the amount of weight and the number of kilometers transported are combined into one number. It is challenging to separate them again or scale them without knowing one of the numbers. Instead, it is possible to scale tkm based on the mass you’re transporting. This is possible when the distance for multiple goods is identical (e.g., they have the same supplier), but the weight of the goods is different.

1. Create a new transport object: Go to your Object library and create a new object that specifies the transport route in the name (e.g., "150km transport from supplier 'X' to factory 'Y'"). Fill in the unit as kilograms (kg) - the mass unit enables scalability (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Creating a fixed distance transport object in Mobius.

2. Calculate tkm for 1kg of material over a specified distance: Determine the tkm value for transporting 1kg of material over the specified distance. In this case, the distance from supplier ‘X’ to factory ‘Y’ is 150km. First, convert the weight from kg to ton (divide by 1000). Thus, the weight of the material = 1 kg / 1000 = 0.001 ton. Multiply this by the distance. This gives 0.001 * 150 = 0.15 tkm. See the subsection above.

3. Add a subitem under the new transport object: Incorporate the calculated tkm value (Step 2) as a subitem under the transport object (Step 1) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Adding a subitem to a transport object for scaling transport in Mobius.

4. Add a dataset: Attach a transport dataset to add impact to the object. See the subsection above for tips on finding the right transport dataset.

5. Add the transport object to your product: Go to the Product inventory of the object you want to add the transport object to (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Adding the scalable transport object to a product in Mobius.

In the end, Mobius automatically scales the tkm to the right value - so you don’t have to calculate the tkm value yourself!

Video tutorial

Watch Emma explain these concepts in our tutorial:

Next steps

By following these steps, you can effectively model transport in Mobius, ensuring that transportation impacts are accurately captured in your LCA models. For further assistance or guidance, explore our help center resources or reach out to our support team. Happy modeling!

Did this answer your question?