Impacts and mitigation of excess diesel-related NOx emissions in 11 major vehicle markets

Abstract

Vehicle emissions contribute to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone air pollution, affecting human health1,2,3,4,5, crop yields5,6 and climate5,7 worldwide. On-road diesel vehicles produce approximately 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are key PM2.5 and ozone precursors8,9. Regulated NOx emission limits in leading markets have been progressively tightened, but current diesel vehicles emit far more NOx under real-world operating conditions than during laboratory certification testing10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20. Here we show that across 11 markets, representing approximately 80 per cent of global diesel vehicle sales, nearly one-third of on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions and over half of on-road light-duty diesel vehicle emissions are in excess of certification limits. These excess emissions (totalling 4.6 million tons) are associated with about 38,000 PM2.5- and ozone-related premature deaths globally in 2015, including about 10 per cent of all ozone-related premature deaths in the 28 European Union member states. Heavy-duty vehicles are the dominant contributor to excess diesel NOx emissions and associated health impacts in almost all regions. Adopting and enforcing next-generation standards (more stringent than Euro 6/VI) could nearly eliminate real-world diesel-related NOx emissions in these markets, avoiding approximately 174,000 global PM2.5- and ozone-related premature deaths in 2040. Most of these benefits can be achieved by implementing Euro VI standards where they have not yet been adopted for heavy-duty vehicles.

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Figure 1: Real-world NOx emission factors by vehicle emissions standard in key regions.
Figure 2: NOx emissions by scenario and region.
Figure 3: Change in PM2.5 and ozone concentration for the scenario pairs shown.
Figure 4: Annual PM2.5- and ozone-related premature deaths.

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Acknowledgements

Support was provided by the Hewlett Foundation, the ClimateWorks Foundation, the European Climate Foundation, Energy Foundation China and the NASA Health and Air Quality Applied System Team. We are grateful to F. Posada, T. Dallman, J. German, R. Muncrief, A. Bandivadekar, H. He, D. Rutherford and F. Kamakaté for assistance with regional diesel NOx emissions inventories; G. Bishop for access to US remote sensing data; J. Apte and N. Fann for discussions on the health impact methodology; and R. van Dingenen for assistance with the crop impact methodology.

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Authors

Contributions

S.A. and J.M. contributed equally. S.A., J.M., V.F., D.H. and R.M. planned the research, J.M., L.D., V.F. and R.M. developed the on-road diesel NOx emissions inventories, Z.K. and C.H. developed the inventories of all other emissions, D.H. performed the model simulations, S.A., C.M., F.L. and D.H. performed the impact calculations, all authors analysed the results, and S.A. and J.M. wrote the paper with help from all authors.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Susan C. Anenberg or Joshua Miller.

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Reviewer Information Nature thanks R. Burnett and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Ozone-related percentage crop production loss by region and scenario.

Results are shown for maize, wheat and soy globally and in major producing regions (central estimate and uncertainty bars showing range using two exposure metrics).

Extended Data Figure 2 Radiative forcing from change in NOx emissions.

Results shown are central estimates and error bars show 95% confidence intervals based on error in the conversion from concentrations to climate impacts.

Extended Data Figure 3 Annual on-road diesel vehicle NOx emissions in 2015.

a, Total on-road diesel vehicle NOx emissions for the baseline in 2015 (Mt/yr) with percentage change relative to Baseline-2015 for each scenario, where Baseline-2015 labels indicate millions of tons of on-road diesel NOx emissions. b, Comparison of the 2015 baseline with theoretical compliance with emission limits (Limits-2015), where bars indicate uncertainty for HDV emission limits (see Supplementary Information) and Baseline-2015, calculated as described in the Methods.

Extended Data Figure 4 Diesel LDV and HDV activity.

a, By region from 2015 to 2040. b, By Euro-equivalent standard and policy scenario in 2015 and 2040.

Extended Data Figure 5 Distance-specific NOx emission rates.

Uncertainty bands are based on engine emission limits by model year. HHDT, heavy heavy-duty trucks; MHDT, medium heavy-duty trucks. Lines are guides to the eye.

Extended Data Figure 6 Review of diesel NOx emission factors.

a, HDV in EU-28. (Data are taken from refs 17, 34, 44, 15 and 33. We note that ref. 17 indicates that remote sensing estimates are typical of urban driving conditions in the UK.) b, HDV in China. (Data are taken from refs 73, 74, 36, 38 and 37.) c, Passenger cars in EU-28. (Data are taken from refs 75, 34, 76 and 17.) Emission limits are from corresponding regulations. Data from ref. 75 are averaged over urban, rural and highway for diesel cars weighing 2.5–3.5 tons.) d, Light commercial vehicles in EU-28. (Data are taken from refs 75 and 34.) In a and b, horizontal lines indicate distance-based emission factors based on engine emission limits. In a and b, horizontal bars indicate upper and lower bound for emission factor estimates, calculated as described in the Methods.

Extended Data Table 1 Global air quality and health impacts of emission scenarios in 2015 and 2040
Extended Data Table 2 Regional PM2.5- and ozone-related premature deaths in 2015 and 2040
Extended Data Table 3 Selected diesel NOx emission factors, emission limits and multipliers

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Methods which include additional detail on the emission scenario development, impact assessment methods, and results. It also contains Supplementary Tables 1-6, which show policy implementation timelines, emission factor studies reviewed, comparison of mortality results to other studies, mortality results by vehicle type, years of life lost results, and crop impact parameters. (PDF 904 kb)

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Anenberg, S., Miller, J., Minjares, R. et al. Impacts and mitigation of excess diesel-related NOx emissions in 11 major vehicle markets. Nature 545, 467–471 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22086

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