Fuel and drivetrain options for road transport. Impact on air pollution and external costs

Air pollution is a major environmental contributor to public health problems worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, every year, exposure to air pollution causes seven million premature deaths and results in the loss of millions more healthy years of life. Road transport is a significant source of air pollution. In a previous study for the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), CE Delft evaluated the total costs of road traffic-related air pollution in the EU28. This study continues the analysis of health and social effects by examining additional options to reduce diesel-related emissions from road transport.

Goal of this study

This study expands the previous study and focuses on two main elements:

  1. Fuel and/or drivetrain scenarios: the study analyses the potential impact on emission levels if fuel/energy carriers such as electricity, CNG (compressed natural gas), LNG (liquid natural gas), LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), biofuels, and drivetrains such as plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles (which can run on high blends of fossil fuel substitutes) replaced diesel vehicles or diesel use.
  2. Broader range of external costs: in addition to external costs of NOx and PM, the study also assesses other external costs such as CO2 emissions, noise, road safety and congestion.

There are many different fuel and drivetrain combinations which could potentially replace diesel vehicles. The study examines the impact of diesel substitutes that could be promoted from the viewpoint of minimising air pollution and climate change. The scenarios focus on the impact on air pollution and, in particular, on health when replacing diesel with alternatives. It is important to realise the scenarios are hypothetical and constructed to reveal the maximum potential of diesel substitution: they do not reflect realistic fleet developments.