© 2021. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0
Non-exhaust PM emissions from electric vehicles
Victor R. J. H. Timmersa*, Peter A. J. Achtena
aINNAS BV, 15 Nikkelstraat, 4823 AE Breda, Netherlands
*corresponding author; email: email@example.com
Particulate matter (PM) exposure has been linked to adverse health effects by numerous studies.
Therefore, governments have been heavily incentivising the market to switch to electric passenger
cars in order to reduce air pollution. However, this literature review suggests that electric vehicles
may not reduce levels of PM as much as expected, because of their relatively high weight. By
analysing the existing literature on non-exhaust emissions of different vehicle categories, this review
found that there is a positive relationship between weight and non-exhaust PM emission factors. In
addition, electric vehicles (EVs) were found to be 24% heavier than equivalent internal combustion
engine vehicles (ICEVs). As a result, total PM10 emissions from EVs were found to be equal to those
of modern ICEVs. PM2.5 emissions were only 1-3% lower for EVs compared to modern ICEVs.
Therefore, it could be concluded that the increased popularity of electric vehicles will likely not have
a great effect on PM levels. Non-exhaust emissions already account for over 90% of PM10 and 85% of
PM2.5 emissions from traffic. These proportions will continue to increase as exhaust standards
improve and average vehicle weight increases. Future policy should consequently focus on setting
standards for non-exhaust emissions and encouraging weight reduction of all vehicles to significantly
reduce PM emissions from traffic.
Keywords: electric vehicle, particulate matter, non-exhaust, PM10
Air quality is a large concern in Europe. According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), PM
is one of Europe's most problematic pollutants in terms of harm to human health, being responsible
for several hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in the European Region every year .
Traffic is one of the main reasons why PM levels are too high, and is the primary source of PM in urban
areas [2-4]. Vehicles emit PM through their exhaust and through non-exhaust sources, such as tyre
wear, brake wear, road surface wear and resuspension of road dust .
PM is often divided into PM10 and PM2.5, which represent particles with a diameter of less than 10 µm
and 2.5 µm, respectively. The link between exposure to PM and adverse health effects has been well
documented [1, 6-10]. However, the precise effects on health due to exhaust and non-exhaust
emissions are less well understood.
Exhaust PM emissions are mainly made up of PM2.5 and contain a variety of hydrocarbons, which can
contribute to respiratory disease or lead to increased incidence of cancer . Non-exhaust emissions
tend to contain mostly PM10, but a significant proportion of the emissions contains fine PM2.5 as well.
The chemical characteristics of non-exhaust PM emissions vary per source, but are mainly made up of
heavy metals such as zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), iron (Fe) and lead (Pb), among others . There are several
toxicological studies that have found links between non-exhaust emissions and adverse health effects,
such as lung-inflammation and DNA damage [12-16], and a review of epidemiological studies
concluded that PM10 indeed has an effect on mortality .
Because of the chemical differences between non-exhaust and exhaust emissions, they result in
different secondary PM. Secondary PM is formed in the atmosphere through chemical reactions,
rather than being directly emitted by a source. The volatile organic compounds in exhaust gases
react with sunlight in the atmosphere to form secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) whereas non-
exhaust emissions are mainly inorganic and therefore form secondary inorganic aerosols (SIAs).
However, it is exceedingly difficult to model SOAs and SIAs emissions [18,19]. Not only do many
studies have difficulty determining the fractional contribution vehicles make to SOAs, but it is also
problematic to differentiate between primary and secondary PM [20-22]. Therefore, there is always
the risk of double-counting PM . SOAs may have a significant influence on PM levels. However,
more research is needed to determine their relative importance. The largest part of the non-exhaust
emissions is resuspended PM, possibly including secondary PM emissions. For that reason we have
not differentiated between primary and secondary PM emissions.
One of the strategies being adopted in many European countries to improve air quality is incentivising
the electrification of passenger cars [24, 25]. The switch to EVs has been proposed as a solution to air
pollution, offering zero emissions and promising cleaner air for everyone [26-28]. However, when
modelling the impact of EVs on air quality, Soret et al.  found that fleet electrification would not
significantly reduce PM emissions due to the importance of non-exhaust emissions.
This literature review attempts to investigate this further by determining the weight difference
between EVs and ICEVs, quantifying the impact this has on non-exhaust emissions and finally
comparing the total PM emissions from EVs and ICEVs. It is important to note that this literature
review is only concerned with the PM emissions from EVs and ICEVs. A complete understanding of the
value of EVs versus ICEVs is beyond the scope of this study.
2. Weight and Emission
2.1 Hypothesised influence of weight
It can be hypothesised that each of the sources of non-exhaust PM emissions should be influenced
by vehicle weight.
We know that road abrasion and tyre wear are caused by the friction between the tyre thread and
road surface. Friction is a function of the friction coefficient between the tyres and the road, as well
as a function of the normal force of the road. This force is directly proportional to the weight of the
car. This means that increasing vehicle weight would increase the frictional force and therefore the
rate of wear on both the tyre and road surface.
Brake wear is caused by the friction between the brake pads and the wheels. The energy needed to
reduce the momentum of a vehicle is proportional to the vehicle’s speed and mass. Therefore, as the
mass of the vehicle increases, more frictional energy is needed to slow it down, leading to greater
Resuspension is caused by the wake of a vehicle, which in turn is determined by the size, weight and
aerodynamics of the vehicle. Furthermore, heavier vehicles are able to grind down larger particles
into smaller, more easily suspended PM. In addition, many heavier vehicles will also be larger,
resulting in a larger wake. These factors together should cause increased resuspension.
2.2 Evidence for influence of weight
In his paper, Simons  presented new and updated datasets for emissions of passenger cars. He
distinguishes between vehicle exhaust and non-exhaust emissions and is one of the first to define
non-exhaust emissions as a factor of vehicle weight, with the intention of being applied to studies on
hybrid and electric vehicles. Simons suggests that PM10 emission factors could be scaled directly to
vehicle weight and provides emission factors for tyre, brake and road wear per kg of vehicle weight.
For example, tyre, brake and road wear increase by around 50% when comparing a medium
(1600kg) and small (1200kg) car. Compared to a small car, large cars (2000kg) emitted more than
double the amount of PM10. See Figure 1.
Figure 1 Non-exhaust PM emissions by source and car size, from Simons  based on Ntziachristos and
There is very little other research that directly links non-exhaust PM emissions to vehicle weight.
Some authors have speculated about the possible influence of weight, but not directly measured it.
Barlow  mentions that vehicle weight is likely to be one of the factors affecting tyre wear. He
also says that in general, larger vehicles produce larger non-exhaust emissions. These assertions are
only explained qualitatively, however. Similarly, Garg et al.  mention that the inertia weight
being stopped is one of the factors contributing to brake wear rate, but does not perform any tests
with varying weights to confirm this.
Despite the lack of direct research, there is significant indirect evidence for the positive relationship
between weight and non-exhaust PM emissions. Many studies and emission inventories suggest that
heavier vehicle categories emit more PM.
The European Environmental Agency (EEA) publishes an Emission Inventory Guidebook  which
provides emission factors for different vehicle types. In this emission inventory, passenger cars are
defined as vehicles carrying up to nine passengers, whereas light duty vehicles (LDVs) are defined as
vehicles with a gross weight of up to 3500kg. LDV emission factors of total suspended particles (TSP),
PM10 and PM2.5 were 57% higher than those of passenger cars for both tyre and brake wear, but road
surface wear was the same for both.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  has their own emission inventory called
MOVES2014, which contains emission factors for tyre and brake wear. They distinguish between
passenger cars (< 2720kg) and passenger trucks (< 3855kg), and assert that the latter emit 67% more
PM10 and PM2.5 due to brake wear but only 2% more due to tyre wear.
The Pollutant Release and Transfer Register in The Netherlands (PRTR) provide their own emission
inventory with emission factor estimates for tyre wear  based on extensive research. They
consider the average empty weight of a passenger car to be 850-1050kg and the gross weight of a
van to be around 2000kg. They suggest that that the total tyre wear, PM10 and PM2.5 emissions were
40% higher for vans compared to regular passenger cars. The PRTR also has a report on calculating
emissions per tyre for different vehicle categories . In this report, wear rate per tyre is 10%
higher for passenger cars than for motorcycles, 20% higher for delivery vans than for passenger cars
and 130% higher for lorries than for passenger cars.
Several individual studies measuring non-exhaust emissions differentiate between passenger cars
and LDVs. Despite varying definitions for the weight of vehicle categories, the general consensus is
that LDVs emit more PM than passenger cars. For example, Garben et al.  found tyre wear of
LDVs to be 75% higher than that of passenger cars. Similarly, Gebbe et al.  found tyre wear for
LDVs to be more than twice that of passenger cars. BUWAL  found that the PM10 emissions of
passenger cars’ brakes were twice as much as those from motorcycles. LDVs on the other hand,
emitted over two and a half times more PM10 than passenger cars. Research by Garg et al. 
distinguishes between brake emissions from small cars, large cars and large pickup trucks. They
found that the brakes of large cars emit 55% more TSP, PM10 and PM2.5 than small cars. Large pickup
trucks were found to emit more than double the amount of particulates compared to small cars.
Very little data is available on resuspension of road dust for different vehicle categories. Gillies et al.
 investigated emissions of vehicles on unpaved roads and found that emissions had a strong
linear relationship with not only vehicle speed but also vehicle weight. The EPA’s AP42 Method 
for estimation of resuspension includes a factor based on vehicle weight to the power 1.02,
suggesting resuspension increases almost linearly with weight. This is in line with the results from a
study by Amato et al.  which used the same vehicle categories as the EPA  and found that
PM10 resuspension rates were 10 times higher for passenger cars than for motorcycles, and 3-4 times
higher for LDVs than for passenger cars. See Table 1 for an overview of the results.
Table 1 Comparison of non-exhaust emissions for different vehicle categories
(s) = only includes suspended particles (u) = urban roads, (r) = rural roads
2.3 Weight comparison of electric and conventional passenger cars
Per vehicle kg
Tyres + Brakes
Light duty truck
Tyres + Brakes
Dutch PRTR 
Dutch PRTR 
30 (u)/19 (r)
33 (u)/21 (r)
40 (u)/26 (r)
US EPA 
Garben et al. 
Gebbe et al. 
Garg et al. 
Amato et al. 
In order to determine the additional non-exhaust emissions that EVs produce, a comparison must be
made between the weight of EVs and ICEVs. The best way to do this is by determining the difference
in weight between a highway-capable EV and its equivalent non-electric version. For example, the
Ford Focus Electric and gasoline-powered Ford Focus hatchback have almost exactly the same
specifications. The Electric, however is 219kg heavier. The same applies to the Honda Fit: the electric
version is 335kg heavier than the conventional version. The Kia Soul EV is 311kg heavier than the
regular Kia Soul, etc. See Table 2 for the complete list. On average, the electric versions are 280kg or
24% heavier than their ICE counterparts.
Table 2 Comparison of weight between EVs and their ICEV counterparts, based on manufacturer information
It is important to note that comparing electric vehicles and their conventional counterparts is not
entirely straightforward. For example, the weight of the body of electric vehicles is often reduced
significantly by using aluminium instead of steel to improve the range of the vehicle . If this
would be done with conventional cars, the weight difference would be even greater than it already
is. Furthermore, EVs have many limitations that ICEVs do not have. For example, the Volkswagen e-
Golf has a top speed of 140 km/h, a range of 133 km and cannot carry any trailer load. The
Volkswagen Golf on the other hand, has a top speed depending on engine size between 179-203
km/h, a range of over 1000 km and can carry a trailer load up to 1100kg. This all makes direct
comparison problematic, especially since only limited data on vehicle specifics is publicly available.
order EV (kg)
Ford Focus Electric
Honda Fit EV
Smart Electric Drive
Kia Soul EV
Chevrolet Spark EV
Renault Fluence EV
Very few other studies compare the weight of vehicles by their power train technology. Bauer et al.
 used a simulation of a mid-size vehicle to compare the weight of ICEVs and EVs in 2012 and
projected in 2030. They found that in 2012, ICEVs were 1567 kg on average, whereas EVs were
1944kg (24% heavier). The projected values for 2030 were 1383kg and 1613kg for ICEVs and EVs,
3.4 Expected effect on emissions of EVs
More research is needed to determine the exact relationship between weight and non-exhaust
emissions, but a reasonable estimate can be made using existing research. Based on the research by
Simons  an increase in weight of 280kg will result in a PM10 increase of 1.1 mg per vehicle-
kilometre (mg/vkm) for tyre wear, 1.1 mg/vkm for brake wear and 1.4 mg/vkm for road wear. For
PM2.5, these values are 0.8 mg/vkm, 0.5 mg/vkm and 0.7 mg/vkm for tyre, brake and road wear,
respectively. However, brake wear of EVs tends to be lower because of their regenerative brakes
. There is very little literature which has investigated the actual reduction in emissions, so we
have assumed a conservative estimate of zero brake wear emissions for EVs. For resuspension, it is
reasonable to assume based on the research by Gillies et al.  that there is a linear relationship
between weight and resuspension, and therefore a 24% increase in resuspension is to be expected.
3. Exhaust and non-exhaust emission factors
In order to put this increase in emissions into perspective, the average PM10 and PM2.5 emissions of
passenger cars must be determined. As we know, passenger cars emit PM through exhaust and non-
3.1 Exhaust emissions
Before the introduction of air quality standards, exhaust emissions used to be a major source of PM,
especially for diesel cars . Since then, PM emission standards for vehicle exhausts have become
increasingly strict and now all new diesel passenger cars are fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF).
Bergmann et al.  found that DPFs are very effective at reducing PM emissions, lowering the
emitted mass of PM by 99.3%. This has resulted in greatly reduced particle emissions from diesels in
the last ten years [5, 48].
The current instalment of European emission standards, EURO 6, dictates that new diesel and petrol
cars must emit less than 5 mg/vkm to be allowed on the market . It is expected that within the
next decade, the majority of vehicles will comply with these regulations.
Many studies have been done to determine the amount of PM emitted by vehicle exhausts [50-54].
Earlier studies tend to report higher emission factors than more recent ones, which is indicative of the
improving exhaust emission standards and higher measurement accuracy.
The most reliable indicators of emission factors are generally European and national emission
inventories. These emission inventories compile data from vast amounts of measurements and studies
to provide emission factors that can be used to estimate contributions to national air pollution.
Moreover, emission inventories are revised every couple of years as new research becomes available.
One of these emission inventories is the EMEP/EEA Emission Inventory Guidebook . This
guidebook is used by EU countries to determine emissions from their vehicle fleets and report them
annually to the EEA. The latest Emission Inventory Guidebook provides emission factors for different
vehicles by fuel type, engine displacement and technology. The PM emission factors for gasoline and
diesel passenger cars are generally very low, well below the EURO 6 limits.
Another emission inventory is available from the U.S. EPA . For passenger cars, their model
predicts that average exhaust emissions of both PM10 and PM2.5 are much lower than the EURO 6 limit.
Cai et al.  used the EPA’s Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) to estimate the exhaust PM
emissions of passenger cars by model year. They found that exhaust emissions tend to decrease with
newer models. Older gasoline cars emitted slightly more than the limits set by EURO 6, whereas newer
models had much lower emission factors, on average. All diesel models with DPFs emit less than the
EURO 6 limits, according to the computer model.
The Dutch PRTR  has exhaust emission factors in their emission inventory as well. For gasoline
passenger cars, these are just below EURO 6 standards, whereas diesel vehicles with DPFs produce
almost no emissions at all. This is in contrast with the UK national atmospheric emission inventory
(NAEI) , which specifies that petrol cars emit almost no PM and diesel cars emit more than gasoline
cars, depending on their engine technology. All of the reported emission factors for diesels are below
EURO 6 limits.
If we average the suggested emission factors from theses emission inventories, we obtain a PM10
emission factor of 3.1 mg/vkm for gasoline cars and 2.4 mg/vkm for diesel cars. In terms of PM2.5,
these values were 3.0 mg/vkm and 2.3 mg/vkm for gasoline and diesel cars, respectively.
Table 3 Exhaust emission factors for gasoline and diesel passenger cars
US EPA 
Cai et al. 
Dutch PRTR 
UK NAEI 
3.2 Non-exhaust emissions
Numerous studies have investigated the non-exhaust emission factors of passenger cars. There are
several ways to do this. The most common methods are:
Emission factors can be estimated based on national statistics of tyre use and brake use, average
weight lost per tyre and brake, and average distance before a tyre/brake needs to be replaced. Some
manufacturers also provide information on the rate of wear on tyres and brakes, which can be used
to estimate emission factors. Examples of studies that use this method are those by Barlow  and
Legret & Pagotto .
ii) Laboratory measurements
Laboratory measurements usually use a circular road simulator and weighted wheels, with or
without brakes to test tyre, brake and road wear. Alternatively, tests can be done on a track in a
wind tunnel to more closely simulate reality. Examples of studies which use a road simulator are
Cadle and Williams , Kupiainen et al. [61, 62], Garg et al. , Dahl et al. [63, 64], Gustafsson et
al. [65, 66], Sakai  and Bukowiecki et al. . Sanders et al.  used a wind tunnel and track,
while Chow et al.  used a resuspension chamber to investigate the composition of road dust.
iii) Roadside and tunnel measurements
It is possible to calculate exhaust and non-exhaust emission factors by measuring PM levels near a
road or at the inlet and outlet of a tunnel, comparing this to the background levels of PM and
apportioning the difference to exhaust and non-exhaust sources by analysing the chemical
composition of PM. Examples of tunnel studies are those by Lawrence et al.  and Luhana et al.
. Roadside measurement studies were done by Bukowiecki et al. , Johansson et al. ,
Sjöberg and Ferm , Abu-Allaban , Thorpe et al. , Nicholson  and Omstedt et al. .
iv) Mobile on-board measurement
Mobile on-board measurement is done by attaching sampling devices directly onto a moving vehicle
or in a trailer behind a moving vehicle. This type of study was performed by Fitz and Bufalino ,
Bukowiecki et al.  and Mathissen et al.  and to determine resuspension emission factors.
Many of these studies find very different results, depending on the method of measurement,
location and types of vehicles tested. Therefore, emission inventories from the EEA , U.S. EPA
 Dutch PRTR [37, 78] and UK NAEI  analyse these studies to come up with the most
representative emission factors for tyre wear, brake wear and road wear. Resuspension is currently
only included in the UK emission inventory.
If we take the average results of these emission inventories, we obtain PM10 emission factors of 6.1
mg/vkm, 9.3 mg/vkm, 7.5 mg/vkm and 40 mg/vkm for tyre wear, brake wear, road surface wear and
resuspension of road dust, respectively. PM2.5 emissions are 2.9 mg/vkm, 2.2 mg/vkm, 3.1 mg/vkm
and 12 mg/vkm for tyre wear, brake wear, road wear and resuspension, respectively. See table 4.
These results are in line with those found by the literature review of Grigoratos and Martini .
Table 4 Emission inventories on average tyre wear, brake wear, road wear and resuspension for passenger cars
US EPA 
Dutch PRTR 
Dutch PRTR 
UK NAEI 
4. Comparison EV and ICEV emissions
By using the data from Simons  on the effect of weight on emissions and the average exhaust
and non-exhaust emission from the various emission inventories, we can compare the total PM
emissions from EVs with those from gasoline and diesel cars. When we do this, we find that EVs
emit the same amount of PM10 as modern gasoline and diesel cars. See Table 5 for the comparisons.
Table 5 Comparison between expected PM10 emissions of EVs, gasoline and diesel ICEVs
When we compare PM2.5 emissions, we can see that EVs bring about a negligible reduction in
emissions. Compared to an average gasoline ICEV, the EV emits 3% less PM2.5. Compared to an average
diesel ICEV, the EV emits 1% less PM2.5. See table 6 for the comparisons.
Table 6 Comparison between expected PM2.5 emissions of EVs, gasoline and diesel ICEVs
From these calculations, it is clear that EVs are not significantly less polluting than modern ICEVs in
terms of PM. We can also see that non-exhaust emissions currently account for more than 90% of
PM10 and 85% of PM2.5 emissions from traffic. These proportions are likely to keep increasing in the
future as increasingly strict emission limits result in higher exhaust standards .
Several studies have reached the same conclusion on the importance of non-exhaust emissions. Rexeis
and Hausberger  predicted that the percentage of non-exhaust PM of the total PM emissions will
increase from 50% in 2000 up to 80-90% by 2020. Jörß and Handke  modelled non-exhaust
emissions of PM2.5 in Germany and found that non-exhaust sources accounted for 25% of traffic PM2.5
emissions in 2000 and are expected to contribute 70% of traffic PM2.5 by 2020. This conclusion was
also reached by Denier van der Gon et al. , who predicted non-exhaust will likely be the dominant
source of total PM emissions from traffic by 2020.
Worryingly, over the last decade, we have seen a steady increase in vehicle weight in almost all
segments . See Figure 2. This trend is expected to apply to EVs as well, as demand for longer
range EVs increases. In order to achieve a longer range, EVs need larger batteries and require more
structural weight to accommodate these batteries .
Figure 2 Mass in running order by vehicle segment 2001-2014, adapted from 
Therefore, non-exhaust emissions from EVs and ICEVs are likely to keep increasing in the future.
Strategies designed to reduce PM pollution by restricting vehicle exhaust emissions alone will no
longer be very effective . There is a need for new policies and measures that specifically target
non-exhaust PM emissions .
5. Implications for policy
There are several options for future policy that have potential to reduce non-exhaust emissions. A
good start would be to create maximum limits for non-exhaust emissions that all new vehicles (ICEVs
and EVs) need to comply with. However, measurements of non-exhaust emissions so far have
produced divergent results, depending on the measurement method used. So in order to introduce
non-exhaust limits, a standardised measurement method would need to be introduced.
Further improvements can be made by encouraging innovation on reducing vehicle weight. This is
currently being done by the European Green vehicle Initiative  to improve the range of EVs, but
should also be applied to conventional passenger cars. EV technology such as lightweight body
design, improved tyre design and regenerative brakes could all be applied to ICEVs to further
decrease their non-exhaust emissions.
Finally, we recommend that governments create incentives for consumers and car manufacturers to
switch to more lightweight passenger cars, in order to reverse the trend of increasing vehicle weight
in all market segments.
Air quality in numerous places in Europe does not reach EU standards. As a result, many people
experience adverse health effects due to very high concentrations of PM. Traffic is one of the major
sources of ambient PM, especially in urban areas. The EV has been proposed as a solution to air
pollution. Therefore, many countries are incentivising alternative fuel vehicles such as EVs.
Vehicle weight was expected to play a role in emission factors, since each of the non-exhaust
emission sources is affected by weight. Several studies provided evidence that there is indeed a
positive correlation between weight and non-exhaust emissions. However, more research is needed
into the exact impact additional weight has on emission factors. EVs were found to be 24% heavier
than equivalent non-electric models. Based on the available data, we calculated that EVs produce
the same amount of PM10 as average conventional vehicles. EVs have slightly lower PM2.5 emissions,
emitting 1-3% less than ICEVs, on average. However, these differences are likely to disappear
completely as exhaust emission standards become even stricter.
Therefore, EVs are not likely to have a large impact on PM emissions from traffic. Non-exhaust
sources account for more than 90% of PM10 and 85% of PM2.5 emissions from passenger cars, and
this proportion is likely to increase in the future as vehicles become heavier. Policy so far has only
focused on reducing PM from exhaust emissions. Therefore, future European legislation should set
non-exhaust emission standards for all vehicles and introduce standardised measurement methods.
In addition, it is recommended that EV technology such as lightweight car bodies and regenerative
brakes be applied to ICEVs, and incentives provided for consumers and car manufacturers to switch
to less heavy vehicles.
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