Assessing the sustainability of transportation fuels : the air quality impacts of petroleum, bio and electrically powered vehicles



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Transportation fleet emissions have a dominant role in air quality because of their significant contribution to ozone precursor and greenhouse gas emissions. Regulatory policies have emphasized improvements in vehicle fuel economy, alternative fuel use, and engine and vehicle technologies as approaches for obtaining transportation systems that support sustainable development. This study examined the air quality impacts of the partial electrification of the transportation fleet and the use of biofuels for the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area under a 2030 vision of regional population growth and urban development using the Comprehensive Air Quality Model with extensions (CAMx). Different strategies were considered including the use of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) with nighttime charging using excess capacity from electricity generation units and the replacement of conventional petroleum fuels with different percentages of the biofuels E85 and B100 along or in combination. Comparisons between a 2030 regional vision of growth assuming a continuation of current development trends (denoted as Envision Central Texas A or ECT A) in the Austin MSA and the electrification and biofuels scenarios were evaluated using different metrics, including changes in daily maximum 1-hour and 8-hour ozone concentrations, total area, time integrated area and total daily population exposure exceeding different 1-hour ozone concentration thresholds. Changes in ozone precursor emissions and predicted carbon monoxide and aldehyde concentrations were also determined for each scenario. Maximum changes in hourly ozone concentration from the use of PHEVs ranged from -8.5 to 2.2 ppb relative to ECT A. Replacement of petroleum based fuels with E85 had a lesser effect than PHEVs on maximum daily ozone concentrations. The maximum reduction due to replacement of 100% of gasoline fuel in light and heavy duty gasoline vehicles by E85 ranged from -2.1 to 2.8 ppb. The magnitude of the effect was sensitive to the biofuel penetration level. Unlike E85, B100 negatively impacted hourly ozone concentrations relative to the 2030 ECT A case. As the replacement level of petroleum-diesel fuel with B100 in diesel vehicles increased, hourly ozone concentrations increased as well. However, changes due to the penetration of B100 were relatively smaller than those due to E85 since the gasoline fraction of the fleet is larger than the diesel fraction. Because of the reductions in NOx emissions associated with E85, the results for the biofuels combination scenario were similar to those for the E85 scenario. Also, the results showed that as the threshold ozone concentration increased, so too did the percentage reductions in total daily population exposure for the PHEV, E85, and biofuel combination scenarios relative to ECT A. The greatest reductions in population exposure under higher threshold ozone concentrations were achieved with the E85 100% and 17% PHEV with EGU controls scenarios, while the B100 scenarios resulted in greater population exposure under higher threshold ozone concentrations.