Can accurate distance-specific emissions of nitrogen oxide emissions from cars be determined using remote sensing without measuring exhaust flowrate?

Yoann Bernard*, Jan Dornoff, David C. Carslaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Portable Emission Measurement Systems (PEMS) are commonly used to measure absolute (mass per unit distance) emissions of a range of pollutants from road vehicles under real driving conditions. Because measuring large numbers of vehicles with PEMS is impractical, this paper investigates how vehicle emission remote sensing device (RSD) can supplement the use of PEMS. We simulate whether remote sensing measurements can accurately predict a vehicle's real-world distance-specific nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions using RSD without measuring its exhaust flow rate. The approach uses readily available type-approval carbon dioxide (CO2) emission data together with average real-world divergences from studies based on user-reported fuel economy data. We find that at least 30 RS measurements from a given vehicle's journey are needed to reach a mean absolute error of 30% compared to a large reference data set of individual PEMS measurements. With that condition met, it is concluded that estimates agree well with actual NOX emissions from cars and the applied method does not introduce a systematic bias. It is also found that the accuracy of estimates for distance-specific NOX emissions does not significantly improve when more than 300 remote-sensing samples are available, with a mean absolute error converging to 23%. We conclude that this method could be used to screen large car fleets and identify vehicles or group of vehicles that are likely grossly exceeding air pollution standards.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151500
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Yoann Bernard was supported by a grant [35031 ] from FIA-Foundation.

© 2021 Published by Elsevier B.V.


  • Market surveillance
  • Portable Emissions Measurement Systems (PEMS)
  • Remote-sensing device (RSD)
  • Screening
  • Vehicle emissions
  • Vehicle Emissions Remote Sensing System (VERSS)

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