Quantifying On-Road Emissions from Gasoline-Powered Motor Vehicles: Accounting for the Presence of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Diesel Trucks

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published



Vehicle emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), organic aerosol (OA), and black carbon (BC) were measured at the Caldecott tunnel in the San Francisco Bay Area. Measurements were made in bore 2 of the tunnel, where light-duty (LD) vehicles accounted for >99% of total traffic and heavy-duty trucks were not allowed. Prior emission studies conducted in North America have often assumed that route- or weekend-specific prohibitions on heavy-duty truck traffic imply that diesel contributions to pollutant concentrations measured in on-road settings can be neglected. However, as light-duty vehicle emissions have declined, this assumption can lead to biased results, especially for pollutants such as NOx, OA, and BC, for which diesel-engine emission rates are high compared to corresponding values for gasoline engines. In this study, diesel vehicles (mostly medium-duty delivery trucks with two axles and six tires) accounted for <1% of all vehicles observed in the tunnel but were nevertheless responsible for (18 ± 3)%, (22 ± 6)%, and (45 ± 8)% of measured NOx, OA, and BC concentrations. Fleet-average OA and BC emission factors for light-duty vehicles are, respectively, 10 and 50 times lower than for heavy-duty diesel trucks. Using measured emission factors from this study and publicly available data on taxable fuel sales, as of 2010, LD gasoline vehicles were estimated to be responsible for 85%, 18%, 18%, and 6% of emissions of CO, NOx, OA, and BC, respectively, from on-road motor vehicles in the United States.


Environmental Science & Technology



Year of Publication





13873 - 13881



Short Title

Environ. Sci. Technol.