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Atmospheric particle number size distributions of airborne particles (diameter range 10â€“500 nm) were collected over ten weeks at three sites in the vicinity of the A100 urban motorway in Berlin, Germany. The A100 carries about 180 000 vehicles on a weekday. The roadside particle distributions showed a number maximum between 20 and 60 nm clearly related to the motorway emissions. The average total number concentration at roadside was 28 000 cm<sup>−3</sup> with a total range of 1200â€“168 000 cm<sup>−3</sup>. At distances of 80 and 400 m from the motorway the concentrations decreased to mean levels of 11 000 and 9000 cm<sup>−3</sup>, respectively. An obstacle-resolving dispersion model was applied to simulate the 3-D flow field and traffic tracer transport in the urban environment around the motorway. By inverse modelling, vehicle emission factors were derived that are representative of a fleet with a relative share of 6% lorry-like vehicles, and driving at a speed of 80 km h<sup>−1</sup>. Three different calculation approaches were compared, which differ in the choice of the experimental winds driving the flow simulation. The average emission factor per vehicle was 2.1 (±0.2) · 10<sup>14</sup> km<sup>−1</sup> for particle number and 0.077 (±0.01) · 10<sup>14</sup> cm<sup>3</sup> km<sup>−1</sup> for particle volume. Regression analysis suggested that lorry-like vehicles emit 123 (±28) times more particle number than passenger car-like vehicles, and lorry-like vehicles account for about 91% of particulate number emissions on weekdays. Our work highlights the increasing applicability of 3-D flow models in urban microscale environments and their usefulness for determining traffic emission factors.