Comparison of microscale traffic emission models for urban networks

Christina Quaassdorff*, Robin Smit, Rafael Borge, Stefan Hausberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traffic-related air quality issues remain in urban areas worldwide. For this reason, there is an increasing need to estimate the contribution of road traffic to atmospheric emissions at local level with high temporal and spatial resolution. Modal models compute emission rates as a function of specific engine or vehicle operating conditions at the highest resolution (seconds). They can be applied for microscale studies being a cost-effective tool to emulate differences in emissions levels in road networks. Two modal emission models, the Australian PΔP (Power-delta-Power) and the simplified version of the European PHEM (Passenger Car and Heavy-duty Emission Model), PHEM-light model, have been used. Also, a comparison to the cycle-variable emission model VERSIT+micro (Netherlands organisation for applied scientific research state of the art traffic emission model) has been performed. For the comparison of both modal models, the main variables involved in traffic emission calculation were identified. 1 Hz speed-time profiles for individual vehicles were generated with the traffic microsimulation model VISSIM (Vehrkehr in Statden SIMulation) for different traffic conditions. To understand the response of modal models, detailed estimations of NO X emissions and fuel consumption were compared for different vehicle classes. Instantaneous emission profiles for individual driving patterns are highly sensitive to speed-acceleration profiles, vehicle mass, and road gradient, which are essential variables for the emission calculation. Although there are differences between European and Australian models, engine power and load were used to map vehicle classes for a more consistent comparison. It is essential to accurately define these parameters for each vehicle class in addition to detailed driving patterns to obtain high-resolution emissions estimates. In this sense, a larger number of vehicle classes included in the model provides more flexibility to develop representative emissions estimates. Emission predictions between modal models were reasonably consistent presenting larger differences with the cycle-variable model, despite both modal models being based on different on-road fleet measurements. In conclusion, analysing emission estimations for different traffic conditions demonstrates the importance of an accurate definition of the model parameters for a specific vehicle fleet.

Original languageEnglish
Article number094030
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


  • microscale modelling
  • PHEM-light
  • PΔP
  • road traffic emissions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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