The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 17, Issue 9, pp 1131–1141 | Cite as

Regional assessment of local emissions of electric vehicles using traffic simulations for a use case in Germany

  • Eva SzczechowiczEmail author
  • Thomas Dederichs
  • Armin Schnettler



In order to assess the global and local environmental impacts of different penetration rates of electric vehicles (EVs) within a region, we developed a life cycle approach based on a detailed traffic simulation assessing local emissions for individual roads with a high time resolution. The aim was to estimate the reduction potential of local emissions such as particulate matter within a region through a substitution of conventional with electric vehicles.

Materials and methods

The chosen approach assessing local emissions includes a detailed traffic simulation of a vehicle fleet composed of individual vehicles with a daily schedule. The driving pattern is modeled based on a survey of driving patterns in Germany. Incorporation of traffic density for each road and emissions of electric and conventional vehicles permits conclusions on the reduction potential for each street. Moreover, a feasible reduction potential for a particular region can be assessed. A case study for Aachen, Germany is presented within this paper. For the classification of the local emissions with the usual life cycle assessment approach, a comparison of EV, PHEV, and conventional vehicles has been conducted for Germany providing the results for impact categories according to CML 2001.

Results and discussion

Based on simulation results, an estimation of the reduction potential for Aachen for different penetration rates of electric vehicles including particulate matter (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen oxygen (NOx) is carried out. Electric vehicles possess the highest reduction potential for CO and NOx. Assuming 50 % of the total vehicle fleet in 2010 substituted by electric vehicles, local emissions of CO reduce by 46.6 %, for NOx by 38.8 %, and for PM10 by 22.4 %. Due to fluctuations in driving patterns throughout a day, the results are highly time dependent. However, improvements in combustion engine technologies results in an increased reduction potential for conventional vehicles. The direct comparison between the vehicle types showed that the benefit of electric vehicles depends on the considered impact category.


Electric vehicles are able to reduce local emissions within a region. Moreover, this approach focusing on the use phase of vehicles within a regional assessment and the resulting local emissions as well as the detailed analysis of the driving behavior allows a distinguished assessment of the reduction potential of electric vehicles. Additionally, an assessment of policy measures such as drive restrictions for conventional vehicles can be simulated on the base of this approach.


Electric vehicles Driving behavior LCIA Local emissions Particulate matter Regional assessment Simulation Traffic 



This research is financially supported by the BMVBS (Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Bau und Stadtentwicklung) in the project E-Aix: Elektromobiles Oberzentrum Aachen. We especially thank Thomas Pollok for supporting the editing and Thomas Helmschrott for the support of adapting the mesoscopic driving model.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Szczechowicz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Dederichs
    • 1
  • Armin Schnettler
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for High Voltage TechnologyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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