Maximizing the Air Quality and Public Health Benefits of Zero-Emission Off-Road Equipment in Disadvantaged Communities

Research Team: Scott Samuelsen (lead), Michael MacKinnon, and Shupeng Zhu

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: Air pollution from off-road sources disproportionately affects socially and economically disadvantaged communities, particularly low-income and minority populations, often due to historical discrimination that led to their close proximity to such activities. As part of California's climate objectives, there is a focus on deploying zero-emission (ZE) battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell equipment, which can significantly reduce air pollution. However, there are aspects of this transition that need to be better understood in order to maximize benefits for vulnerable communities. For instance, pinpointing high-impact industries that stand to gain the most from this transition will aid in developing policies and strategies that prioritize deployment in these sectors and locations. Additionally, evaluating these benefits necessitates the use of advanced air quality modeling tools that consider both primary emissions and secondary pollutant formation.

Project Description: This project will comprehensively assess the air pollution health benefits of ZE off-road equipment in California with the goal to better understand how these benefits can be maximized in disadvantaged communities through incentives and other policy mechanisms. The study consists of four key steps. First, the researchers will analyze how ZE off-road equipment affects air quality by looking at where and when pollutants like NOx and particulate matter (PM) are released and use the PATHWAYS model to compare emissions outcomes when traditional combustion equipment is used versus ZE off-road equipment. Second, the project will examine how different emissions outcomes impact air pollution levels, including ground-level concentrations of ozone and PM. Third, the researchers will assess health-related impacts using a mapping and analysis program that can estimate the number of health issues avoided, and fourth, the project will analyze the results using an environmental justice framework to evaluate the potential advantages of ZE off-road equipment in disadvantaged communities.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $99,981