Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 12, 19371-19421, 2012
www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/12/19371/2012/
doi:10.5194/acpd-12-19371-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
The impact of a future H2-based road transportation sector on the composition and chemistry of the atmosphere – Part 1: Tropospheric composition and air quality
D. Wang1, W. Jia1, S. C. Olsen1, D. J. Wuebbles1, M. K. Dubey2, and A. A. Rockett3
1Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
2Earth Systems Observations, Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM, USA
3Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

Abstract. Vehicles burning fossil fuel emit a number of substances that change the composition and chemistry of the atmosphere, and contribute to global air and water pollution and climate change. For example, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted as byproducts of fossil fuel combustion are key precursors to ground-level ozone and aerosol formation. In addition, on-road vehicles are major CO2 emitters. In order to tackle these problems, molecular hydrogen (H2) has been proposed as an energy carrier to substitute for fossil fuel in the future. However, before implementing any such strategy it is crucial to evaluate its potential impacts on air quality and climate. Here we evaluate the impact of a future (2050) H2-based road transportation sector on tropospheric chemistry and air quality for several possible growth and technology adoption scenarios. The growth scenarios are based on the high and low emissions Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, A1FI and B1, respectively. The technological adoption scenarios include H2 fuel cell and H2 internal combustion engine options. The impacts are evaluated with the Community Atmospheric Model Chemistry global chemistry transport model (CAM-Chem). Higher resolution simulations focusing on the contiguous United States are also carried out with the Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System (CMAQ) regional chemistry transport model. For all scenarios future air quality improves with the adoption of a H2-based road transportation sector, however, the magnitude and type of improvement depend on the scenario. Model results show that with the adoption of H2 fuel cells decreases tropospheric burdens of ozone (7%), CO (14%), NOx (16%), soot (17%), sulfate aerosol (4%), and ammonium nitrate aerosol (12%) in the A1FI scenario, and decreases those of ozone (5%), CO (4%), NOx (11%), soot (7%), sulfate aerosol (4%), and ammonium nitrate aerosol (9 %) in the B1 scenario. The adoption of H2 internal combustion engines decreases tropospheric burdens of ozone (1%), CO (18%), soot (17%), and sulfate aerosol (3%) in the A1FI scenario, and decreases those of ozone (1%), CO (7%), soot (7%), and sulfate aerosol (3%) in the B1 scenario. In the future, people residing in the contiguous United States are expected to experience significantly fewer days of elevated levels of pollution if a H2 fuel cell road transportation sector is adopted. Health benefits of transitioning to a H2 economy for citizens in developing nations, like China and India, will be much more dramatic particularly in megacities with severe air-quality problems that are exacerbating.

Citation: Wang, D., Jia, W., Olsen, S. C., Wuebbles, D. J., Dubey, M. K., and Rockett, A. A.: The impact of a future H2-based road transportation sector on the composition and chemistry of the atmosphere – Part 1: Tropospheric composition and air quality, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 12, 19371-19421, doi:10.5194/acpd-12-19371-2012, 2012.
 
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