Widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) could save billions of pounds and thousands of lives, according to new research published in the Journal GeoHealth.
Researchers from Northwestern University in Illinois looked at vehicle fleet and emissions data in the United States from 2014.
They used a chemistry-climate model to simulate the atmosphere’s weather and chemistry, including how emissions from combustion engines and power generation sources interact with each other and other emissions sources in their environment.
Based on this data, the researchers have estimated that if 25% of drivers adopted EVs in 2014 and the power required to charge these batteries came from renewables, then 250 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could have been mitigated.
The researchers also found that replacing these combustion-engine cars with EVs could save £13bn annually by avoiding damages from climate change and air pollution.
Going a step further, the researchers have said that replacing 75% of cars with EVs and increasing renewable energy generation could save as much as £53bn.
Daniel Peters, lead author of the study said: ‘Vehicle electrification in the United States could prevent hundreds to thousands of premature deaths annually while reducing carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons.
‘This highlights the potential of co-beneficial solutions to climate change that not only curb greenhouse gas emissions but also reduce the health burden of harmful air pollution.’
Daniel Horton, senior author of the study added: ‘From an engineering and technological standpoint, people have been developing solutions to climate change for years. But we need to rigorously assess these solutions.
‘This study presents a nuanced look at EVs and energy generation and found that EV adoption not only reduces greenhouse gases but saves lives.”
‘A good example is to look at nitrogen oxides (NOx), a group of chemicals produced by fossil-fuel combustion. NOx itself is damaging to respiratory health, but when it’s exposed to sunlight and volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere, ozone and particulate matter can form.’
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