Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States

Christopher W. Tessum, Jason D. Hill, Julian D. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


Commonly considered strategies for reducing the environmental impact of light-duty transportation include using alternative fuels and improving vehicle fuel economy. We evaluate the air qualityrelated human health impacts of 10 such options, including the use of liquid biofuels, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in internal combustion engines; the use of electricity from a range of conventional and renewable sources to power electric vehicles (EVs); and the use of hybrid EV technology. Our approach combines spatially, temporally, and chemically detailed life cycle emission inventories; comprehensive, fine-scale state-of-the-science chemical transport modeling; and exposure, concentration-response, and economic health impact modeling for ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or "grid average" electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by lowemitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18490-18495
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 30 2014


  • Bioelectricity
  • Externality
  • LCA
  • Pollution
  • Spatial


Dive into the research topics of 'Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this