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Estimating changes in urban ozone concentrations due to life cycle emissions from hydrogen transportation systems


Journal Article

Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

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Suggested Citation:
Wang, Guihua, Joan M. Ogden, Daniel P. Chang (2007) Estimating changes in urban ozone concentrations due to life cycle emissions from hydrogen transportation systems. Atmospheric Environment 41 (39), 8874 - 8890

Hydrogen has been proposed as a low polluting alternative transportation fuel that could help improve urban air quality. This paper examines the potential impact of introducing a hydrogen-based transportation system on urban ambient ozone concentrations. This paper considers two scenarios, where significant numbers of new hydrogen vehicles are added to a constant number of gasoline vehicles. In our scenarios hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) are introduced in Sacramento, California at market penetrations of 9% and 20%. From a life cycle analysis (LCA) perspective, considering all the emissions involved in producing, transporting, and using hydrogen, this research compares three hypothetical natural gas to hydrogen pathways: (1) on-site hydrogen production; (2) central hydrogen production with pipeline delivery; and (3) central hydrogen production with liquid hydrogen truck delivery. Using a regression model, this research shows that the daily maximum temperature correlates well with atmospheric ozone formation. However, increases in initial VOC and NOx concentrations do not necessarily increase the peak ozone concentration, and may even cause it to decrease. It is found that ozone formation is generally limited by NOx in the summer and is mostly limited by VOC in the fall in Sacramento. Of the three hydrogen pathways, the truck delivery pathway contributes the most to ozone precursor emissions. Ozone precursor emissions from the truck pathway at 9% market penetration can cause additional 3-h average VOC (or NOx) concentrations up to approximately 0.05% (or 1%) of current pollution levels, and at 20% market penetration up to approximately 0.1% (or 2%) of current pollution levels. However, all of the hydrogen pathways would result in very small (either negative or positive) changes in ozone air quality. In some cases they will result in worse ozone air quality (mostly in July, August, and September), and in some cases they will result in better ozone air quality (mostly in October). The truck pathway tends to cause a much wider fluctuation in degradation or improvement of ozone air quality: percentage changes in peak ozone concentrations are approximately −0.01% to 0.04% for the assumed 9% market penetration, and approximately −0.03% to 0.1% for the 20% market penetration. Moreover, the 20% on-site pathway occasionally results in a decrease of about −0.1% of baseline ozone pollution. Compared to the current ambient pollution level, all three hydrogen pathways are unlikely to cause a serious ozone problem for market penetration levels of HFCVs in the 9–20% range.