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EV Adoption and Air Quality

Posted 10/28/2020

We know emissions from vehicles cause air pollution, and that air pollution is responsible for breathing issues, illnesses, and death. In fact, the World Health Organization states that 4.6 million deaths per year can be attributed to air pollution. While no vehicle is perfect, EVs have been shown to reduce particulate matter in the air and increase public health by reduction of emissions.

What Kind of Emissions Cause Air Pollution?

There are two major categories of emissions: direct and life cycle. According to, direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe, through evaporation from the fuel system, and during the fueling process. “Direct emissions include smog-forming pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides), other pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide.  All-electric vehicles produce zero direct emissions, which specifically helps improve air quality in urban areas.” Life cycle emissions however include ALL emissions, not only from use of the vehicle, but also from its creation, such the drilling, processing, distribution, and use of petroleum, and waste products created from batteries. The amount of life cycle emissions produced by an EV is also dependent on the source of the electricity used to fuel it, which depends on the local electric grids rather than charging equipment. According to a study published in Atmospheric Environment, EVs not only reduce air pollution when electricity comes from renewable resources, such as wind energy, but also reduce air pollution even if the electricity comes from a fossil fuel. However, using renewable resources can reduce particulate matter in the air caused by EVs to nearly zero, reducing pollutants destroying the ozone layer, as well as other pollutants. Another study from Northwestern University on the effect of electric cars on air pollution found that, "the more cars that transitioned to electric power, the better for summertime ozone levels... No matter how the power is generated, the more combustion cars you take off the road, the better the ozone quality."

What Does This Mean for Public Health?

Poor air quality standards create illness and substantially increase medical costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a study by Rand Health proved that “between 2005-2007, nearly 30,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions in California could have been avoided if federal clean-air standards had been met”. The resulting medical costs are estimated at $193 million. Air pollution causes asthma, cardiovascular disease, impairs lung development in children, and has been linked to leukemia and lung cancer. The key to eliminating these diseases is often prevention, and improving air quality is a step toward improving public health. Preventative healthcare has been an important part of medicine for decades. Improving air quality can help prevent disease, promote health, and support the community. Many healthcare providers are seeing a connection between environmental health and personal health and using EV charging stations to improve public health. Ready to get started? Click here to learn more about hosting Blink charging stations.

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