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article imageElectric vehicle adoption leads to better air quality

By Tim Sandle     Apr 24, 2019 in Environment
The main argument in favour of electric vehicles comes from the need to reduce our emissions to lessen the impact of climate change. But a new study presents evidence that EV adoption also improves air quality.
The study comes from Northwestern University, and it focuses on ground-level ozone pollution and particulate matter. For this study, the scientists examined the pollutants using an emissions remapping algorithm and air quality model.
The headline from the research is that electric vehicle adoption causes ozone to decrease in summer months. Importantly, for those who cite the source of the electricity as being something that detracts from the benefits of electric vehicles, the researchers found that ozone pollution reduced even when electricity is produced by combustion sources. With particulate matter, this varies based on season, location and the electricity source.
To assess the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, the the researchers drew comparisons with vehicles driven by combustion engines. According to lead researcher, Professor Daniel Horton, as quoted by Laboratory Roots: "In contrast to many of the scary climate change impact stories we read in the news, this work is about solutions. We know that climate change is happening, so what can we do about it? One technologically available solution is to electrify our transportation system. We find that EV adoptions reduces net carbon emissions and has the added benefit of reducing air pollutants, thereby improving public health."
To gather data, the scientists applied a new-generation NOAA GFDL global Atmospheric Model (version 4) to investigate the impact on air quality. In terms of the different outcomes between ozone reduction and fluctuating particle levels, the researchers found that the fraction of vehicles converted to electric vehicles further decreases summer ozone levels, while increasing the fraction of electricity generated by emission-free sources off-sets the increases in summer particulate levels from the vehicles.
The overall finding was that electric vehicles have a net positive impact on air quality and climate change. The research findings are published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, with the paper titled "Air quality impacts from the electrification of light-duty passenger vehicles in the United States."
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