Emissions & Performance of Alternative Vehicles in Northern Climates

Principal Investigator: : Dr. Britt Holmen (College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences)
Co-Investigators: Drs. Lynn Gregory (Community Development & Applied Economics), Jeff Frolik (College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences), Dryver Huston (College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences), Thomas Streeter (Department of Sociology), Thomas Macias (Department of Sociology) and Robert Jenkins (College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences)
Partners:Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Resource Systems Group, Inc., Udall Foundation, UVM Parking and Transportation
Funding Agency: US DOT

Project Summary

The focus of this project is to quantify "real-world" emissions from hybrid versus non-hybrid vehicles. State-of-the-art micro-simulation models can replicate vehicle activity, fuel economy and emissions. Unfortunately, the factors used by such models are often based on data from laboratory tests conducted under ideal conditions.

Transportation planning models are the basis for decision-making related to new infrastructure, congestion mitigation and safety. These models are also used to evaluate the air quality impacts of transportation projects under Federal "Conformity" legislation requirements (CFR, 2006; FHWA, 2006). State-of-the-art micro simulation models, such as TRANSIMS, model second-by-second vehicle activity (speed and acceleration rate), fuel economy, and emissions (LANL, 2005). Unfortunately, the emissions algorithms used by such models are often based on look-up tables of data from laboratory dynamometer tests conducted under ideal conditions (i.e. new vehicles, 70 degrees F) that do not capture actual "real-world", on-road emissions accurately and do not account for real-world factors such as road grade, temperature or other non-ideal factors. Furthermore, due to their recent introduction, the emissions benefits of alternative technologies like hybrid-electric vehicles and alternative fuels (biofuels) are not incorporated due to a lack of emissions and performance data.

The project's engineers will focus on quantifying real-world emissions from alternative vehicles; the project's behavioral scientists will focus on public understanding of vehicle emissions - how citizens understand things they cannot see -- and the effect that their understanding has on their behavior related to emissions. Therefore, in addition to developing a new alternative vehicle/fuels emissions database, this unique research collaboration will explore ways to improve the communication of the research results to the public as well as to transportation planners and policy makers.

The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Quantify real-world emissions and performance of hybrid passenger car vehicles operating in cold weather and hilly, rural terrain.
  2. Quantify emissions from diesel vehicles and engines operating on biodiesel fuels.
  3. Develop and evaluate low-cost sensors to facilitate widespread real-world vehicle testing.
  4. Evaluate disaggregate hybrid vehicle performance for micro simulation models.
  5. Develop modal emissions and activity models for hybrid and biodiesel vehicles.
  6. Establish a baseline for public knowledge of and behaviors affecting vehicle emissions.
  7. Utilize the public knowledge baseline from Objective 6 to develop educational materials that maximize information internalization and affect subsequent emissions-related behavior, including information dissemination through social networks.

Documents: Research Poster (pdf)