Hidden benefits of electric vehicles revealed

March 19, 2015
Tesla S
Tesla S

Electric vehicles are cool, research shows. Literally. A study in this week's Scientific Reports by researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) and in China add more fuel to the already hot debate about whether electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than conventional vehicles by uncovering two hidden benefits.

They show that the cool factor is real - in that emit significantly less heat. That difference could mitigate the urban , the phenomenon that helps turn big cities like Beijing into pressure cookers in warm months.

Moreover, the cooling resulting from replacing all gas-powered vehicles with electric vehicles could mean city dwellers needing less air conditioning, another environmental win.

"It's easy not to see the big picture on issues like electric cars and global warming, but when we look with a holistic approach, we find these unexpected connections," said co-author Jianguo "Jack" Liu, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at MSU and is director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). "Heat waves kill, and in terms of , even one degree can make a difference."

The research was led by Professor Canbing Li of Hunan University in Changsha, China, who was a visiting scholar at CSIS. The electric vehicles' benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions are countered by the expense and pollution from producing the vehicles, leading to debate on whether they are the best replacement for conventional vehicles.

In the paper, Li and his colleagues take a wider view to find new positives for plug-ins. Conventional vehicles and air conditioners are the two biggest contributors to the heat island intensity - the difference between urban temperatures and the cooler temperatures of rural areas. In that arena, electric vehicles are cooler - giving off only about 20 percent of the heat a gas vehicle emits.

The researchers used Beijing in summer of 2012 to calculate that switching vehicles from gas to electricity could reduce the heat island intensity by nearly 1 degree Celsius. That would have saved Beijing 14.4 million kilowatt hours and slashed by 11,779 tons per day, according to the paper "Hidden Benefits of Electric Vehicles for Addressing Climate Change."

The authors caution that several factors can influence the effect, not all of which were addressed in the study. For example, there are conflicting reports regarding the impact of reduced aerosol pollution on heat island intensity. These factors may need to be considered when weighing the benefits and disadvantages of replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles.

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8 comments

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antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2015
there are conflicting reports regarding the impact of reduced aerosol pollution on heat island intensity. These factors may need to be considered when weighing the benefits and disadvantages of replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles.

I would guess (especially looking at such places like Beijing - where it is now pretty much illegal to even talk about the smog) that even if the aerosol reduction is a 'negative': they should include the added health benefits in some way.
I can't really grok that more aerosols would be 'worth' it if it means a lot more people with resiratory diseases and shortened lifespans.
nevermark
5 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2015
I can't really grok that more aerosols would be 'worth' it if it means a lot more people with resiratory diseases and shortened lifespans.


Good point. Expanding the holistic approach from physics/economics of climate and temperature to include local health benefits, noise reduction, cleaner looking city, etc., should be a big win for electrical cars.
Bob_Wallace
1 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2015
" it is now pretty much illegal to even talk about the smog"

Bet you can't back that up with facts.

Nikos
1 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2015
it is now pretty much illegal to even talk about the smog


Your thoughts are already too polluted by the media to make fair judgement.
dustywells
not rated yet Mar 20, 2015
Duh! What did they think happened to the 33kwh per gallon of petrol?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2015
" it is now pretty much illegal to even talk about the smog"

Bet you can't back that up with facts.

Bet lost.

"Under the dome". Movie made in China about the smog. Viewed 300million times there until censors stepped in a week after it's release and had if pulled from all websites. Media aren't even allowed to talk about it anymore.
http://en.wikiped...#Release
Bob_Wallace
2 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2015
" it is now pretty much illegal to even talk about the smog"

Bet you can't back that up with facts.

Bet lost.

"Under the dome". Movie made in China about the smog. Viewed 300million times there until censors stepped in a week after it's release and had if pulled from all websites. Media aren't even allowed to talk about it anymore.
http://en.wikiped...#Release


Yes, the video was pulled. But that seems to be due to the Chinese government not wanting any person to become "too important". Apparently the government did not want Chai Jing to become the "Al Gore" of China.

http://www.wsj.co...26567136

The Chinese government has openly talked about the pollution and continues to do so. It's apparently about the government not wanting any opposition movements to build and potentially threaten their power. (cont.)
Bob_Wallace
3 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2015
(cont.)

On Sunday Premier Li Keqiang said that the government was failing to satisfy public demands to stanch pollution and would impose heavier punishments to cut the toxic smog.

"The Chinese government is determined to tackle smog and environmental pollution as a whole," Mr. Li said. "But the progress we have made still falls far short of the expectation of the people. Last year, I said the Chinese government would declare war against environmental pollution. We're determined to carry forward our efforts until we achieve our goal."

http://www.nytime...ion.html

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