Articles | Volume 17, issue 24
Research article
21 Dec 2017
Research article |  | 21 Dec 2017

Evaluation of traffic exhaust contributions to ambient carbonaceous submicron particulate matter in an urban roadside environment in Hong Kong

Berto Paul Lee, Peter Kwok Keung Louie, Connie Luk, and Chak Keung Chan

Abstract. Road traffic has significant impacts on air quality particularly in densely urbanized and populated areas where vehicle emissions are a major local source of ambient particulate matter. Engine type (i.e., fuel use) significantly impacts the chemical characteristics of tailpipe emission, and thus the distribution of engine types in traffic impacts measured ambient concentrations. This study provides an estimation of the contribution of vehicles powered by different fuels (gasoline, diesel, LPG) to carbonaceous submicron aerosol mass (PM1) based on ambient aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) and elemental carbon (EC) measurements and vehicle count data in an urban inner city environment in Hong Kong with the aim to gauge the importance of different engine types to particulate matter burdens in a typical urban street canyon. On an average per-vehicle basis, gasoline vehicles emitted 75 and 93 % more organics than diesel and LPG vehicles, respectively, while EC emissions from diesel vehicles were 45 % higher than those from gasoline vehicles. LPG vehicles showed no appreciable contributions to EC and thus overall represented a small contributor to traffic-related primary ambient PM1 despite their high abundance (∼ 30 %) in the traffic mix. Total carbonaceous particle mass contributions to ambient PM1 from diesel engines were only marginally higher (∼ 4 %) than those from gasoline engines, which is likely an effect of recently introduced control strategies targeted at commercial vehicles and buses. Overall, gasoline vehicles contributed 1.2 µg m−3 of EC and 1.1 µ m−3 of organics, LPG vehicles 0.6 µg m−3 of organics and diesel vehicles 2.0 µg m−3 of EC and 0.7 µg m−3 of organics to ambient carbonaceous PM1.

Short summary
Road traffic is an important source of air pollution. This study investigates the relationship between traffic-related airborne carbonaceous particles and the composition of traffic to reveal how emissions from different vehicle types affect ambient air quality. On average, LPG vehicles showed very small contributions, while gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles emitted similar total amounts of carbon-containing particles but with differences in chemical composition.
Final-revised paper