Impact of a future H2 transportation on atmospheric pollution in Europe

M.E. Popa, A.J. Segers, H.A.C. Denier van der Gon, M.C. Krol, A.J.H. Visschedijk, M. Schaap, T. Röckmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrogen (H2) is being explored as a fuel for passenger vehicles; it can be used in fuel cells to power electric motors or burned in internal combustion engines. In order to evaluate the potential influence of a future H2-based road transportation on the regional air quality in Europe, we implemented H2 in the atmospheric transport and chemistry model LOTOS-EUROS. We simulated the present and future (2020) air quality, using emission scenarios with different proportions of H2 vehicles and different H2 leakage rates. The reference future scenario does not include H2 vehicles, and assumes that all present and planned European regulations for emissions are fully implemented. We find that, in general, the air quality in 2020 is significantly improved compared to the current situation in all scenarios, with and without H2 cars. In the future scenario without H2 cars, the pollution is reduced due to the strict European regulations: annually averaged CO, NOx and PM2.5 over the model domain decrease by 15%, 30% and 20% respectively. The additional improvement brought by replacing 50% or 100% of traditionally-fueled vehicles by H2 vehicles is smaller in absolute terms. If 50% of vehicles are using H2, the CO, NOx and PM2.5 decrease by 1%, 10% and 1% respectively, compared to the future scenario without H2 cars. When all vehicles run on H2, then additional decreases in CO, NOx and PM2.5 are 5%, 40%, and 5% relative to the no-H2 cars future scenario. Our study shows that H2 vehicles may be an effective pathway to fulfill the strict future EU air quality regulations.O3 has a more complicated behavior - its annual average decreases in background areas, but increases in the high-NOx area in western Europe, with the decrease in NOx. A more detailed analysis shows that the population exposure to high O3 levels decreases nevertheless. In all future scenarios, traffic emissions account for only a small proportion of the total anthropogenic emissions, thus it becomes more important to better regulate emissions of non-traffic sectors. Although atmospheric H2 increases significantly in the high-leakage scenarios considered, the additional H2 added into the atmosphere does not have a significant effect on the ground level air pollution in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-222
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Air quality
  • Europe
  • Hydrogen vehicles
  • Road traffic


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of a future H<sub>2</sub> transportation on atmospheric pollution in Europe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this