Electric vehicle adoption improves air quality and climate outlook

Electric vehicle adoption improves air quality and climate outlook
An owner of an electric vehicle charges the car's battery. Credit: Karlis Dambrans

If you have ever wondered how much electric vehicle (EV) adoption actually matters for the environment, a new study provides evidence that making this switch would improve overall air quality and lower carbon emissions.

The Northwestern University study quantified the differences in air pollution generated from battery-powered electric vehicles versus . The researchers found that even when their electricity is generated from combustion sources, electric vehicles have a net on air quality and climate change.

"In contrast to many of the scary climate change impact stories we read in the news, this work is about solutions," said Northwestern's Daniel Horton, senior author of the study. "We know that 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 ."

The research published Friday, April 5 in the journal Atmospheric Environment. Horton is an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Jordan Schnell, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science in the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, was the paper's first author.

To quantify the differences between the two types of vehicles, the researchers used an emissions remapping algorithm and air quality model simulations. They used these methods to closely examine two pollutants related to automobiles and power emissions: ozone and particulate matter. Both are main components of smog and can trigger a variety of health problems, such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

To fully account for the complexity of changes to air pollution chemistry, the researchers took multiple variables into consideration:

  • Potential adoption rates
  • Generation of electric vehicle power supply, including our current combustion-dominant mix, combustion-only sources and enhanced emission-free renewables
  • Geographical locations
  • Seasons and times of day

Ozone levels decreased across the board in simulations of warmer weather months. In the wintertime, however, ozone levels increase slightly but are already much lower compared to summer due to a chemical reaction that occurs differently during times of lesser winter sunlight.

"Across scenarios, we found the more cars that transitioned to , the better for summertime ozone levels," Schnell said. "No matter how the power is generated, the more combustion cars you take off the road, the better the ozone quality."

Particulate matter, which is also called "haze," decreased in the wintertime but showed greater variation based on location and how the power was generated. Locations with more coal-fired power in their energy mix, for example, experienced an increase in haze during the summer. Locations with clean energy sources, however, saw drastic reductions in human-caused haze.

"We found that in the Midwest, the increased power demands of EV charging in our current energy mix could cause slight increases in summer particulate matter due to the reliance on coal-fired power generation," Schnell said. "However, if we transition more of the Midwest's power generation to renewables, particulate matter pollution is substantially reduced. In the Pacific Northwester or Northeast, where there is already more clean power available, EV adoption—even with the current energy mix—will decrease pollution."


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More information: Jordan L. Schnell et al, Air quality impacts from the electrification of light-duty passenger vehicles in the United States, Atmospheric Environment (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2019.04.003
Journal information: Atmospheric Environment

Citation: Electric vehicle adoption improves air quality and climate outlook (2019, April 12) retrieved 21 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-electric-vehicle-air-quality-climate.html
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Apr 12, 2019
Absolutely not correct. To charge EV you need electricity, and most electricity is produced in coal powered electric stations. Thus, as more electrical vehicles will enter the market, as more coal you have to burn to provide electricity for charge of EV. So. less pollution from car exhaust and more pollution from coal-fired power plants. Situation only will change if renewable energy sources will be used, such as solar, wind and fusion...

Apr 12, 2019
Till a clean sustainable energy supply comes along
we
are moving the smoke and fumes downwind
Just hope we are not downwind from the next town's coal fired generators

Apr 12, 2019
The climate outlook is for cooling.

https://www.nasa....ere.html

Apr 12, 2019
Doubt they accounted for the loss in generation and distribution of the electricity.
http://insideener...ur-plug/

Apr 12, 2019
"Doubt they accounted for the loss in generation and distribution of the electricity."

Well that is the beauty of being a green progressive you never have to account for any of your overestimations.

Apr 12, 2019
Absolutely not correct. To charge EV you need electricity, and most electricity is produced in coal powered electric stations. Thus, as more electrical vehicles will enter the market, as more coal you have to burn to provide electricity for charge of EV. So. less pollution from car exhaust and more pollution from coal-fired power plants. Situation only will change if renewable energy sources will be used, such as solar, wind and fusion...

You would be correct if the pollution from fossil fuels was only coming out of tail pipes, however, there is substantial pollution in drilling, refining, and transportation to market. Add all that to tail pipe pollution and you have pollution far in excess of that of even the dirtiest coal-fired power plants. A bit of research will validate this.

Apr 12, 2019
Till a clean sustainable energy supply comes along
we
are moving the smoke and fumes downwind
Just hope we are not downwind from the next town's coal fired generators
says granville

Reminds me of the case of the community that is located downriver from another community located upriver, where the folks upriver wash their clothes, bathe and pee in the river, and the water flows downriver to the unfortunate community who also draw their drinking water from same river. A very long, meandering river could pass by many communities on its way to the Sea. Such community interactions are located in places like India, Pakistan, Africa and South America where stringent rules are unheard of. Same with coal-fired energy plants. Only thing one can do is to buy a good supply of face masks to avoid inhaling particulates. Protect your lungs by covering nose and mouth even if you're bound to look rather strange. :)

Apr 12, 2019
Personally, I will not buy an EV until their battery banks are so improved that recharging them in sunlight to the max from a roof solar panel will enable the EV to be driven all night without having to hook up to a station that has a charger available, with electricity flowing from the grid. First, you have to SEARCH for such a station and drive to it provided that your batteries are not dead already.
But yes, the air would be much cleaner and sweet without all the pollutants wafting through to your nose. Mouth-breathers take note.

An idea that I have for when I DO buy an EV is to place a carrier over the roof solar panel with a type of outdoor lamp over the panel; attach the cable to the cigarette lighter in the vehicle so that the batteries recharge/discharge while driving at night. I need to work on the schematics a bit. But it should work well in a pinch when a recharging station isn't available.

Apr 12, 2019
All this is in transition from old to new energy sources/power-generating/distribution systems. It's made clear in the article (yet again) that as renewables increase then fossil/nuclear source for charging will decrease. Moreover, the distribution losses for current centralised fossil plants will be eliminated/reduced drastically when renewables allow many more solar/wind/hydro power plants to be built all along the grids rather than at limited sites near coal/water(for cooling towers) sources. Anyway, coal power plants can be modified for particulate-trapping; whereas ICE cars cannot do this as efficiently/economically. But all those 'transitional factors' will be moot once renewables source/generation/distribution/charging sites reach 'critical mass' cross-country and every domestic/commercial building/site etc etc. Once transition to 25% Gas and 75% Renewables is reached, all this 'denialist angst era' will be but a 'nostalgic era' like 'horse-and buggy' era is now. :)

Apr 12, 2019
Orion
most electricity is produced in coal powered electric stations
That depends where you are located. Here in the U.S. - that statement is false. 2017 - gas 32%, coal 30%, nukes 20%, renewables 20% - https://www.eia.g...d_states That equation is tipping constantly in favor of renewables - https://cleantech...-the-us/
The world is changing Orion.

Apr 12, 2019
EVs do improve local air quality, necessarily so even if all that electricity is coal powered, but especially when it is not. But there are two fundamental problems with EVs: Safety: the batteries must be arranged in a T shape so that they are protected from exploding during a collision, and range and durability of these batteries must improve. Specifically, these batteries must be good for at least 200 000 km prior to degradation. Anything less is an insult. Hybrid done right technically has the most potential, for serious acceleration "quick start engine accelerate" then immediately turn off during perceived cruising (system monitors this). Basically engines designed for fast repeated ignitions and algorithms deciding whether to use the battery or gas. During traffic this will lead to serious reduction in local pollutants. Everything on the market is terrible.

Apr 13, 2019
EVs do improve local air quality, necessarily so even if all that electricity is coal powered, but especially when it is not. But there are two fundamental problems with EVs: Safety: the batteries must be arranged in a T shape so that they are protected from exploding during a collision, and range and durability of these batteries must improve. Specifically, these batteries must be good for at least...Hybrid done right technically has the most potential, for serious acceleration "quick start engine accelerate" then immediately turn off during perceived cruising (system monitors this). Basically engines designed for fast repeated ignitions and algorithms deciding whether to use the battery or gas. During traffic this will lead to serious reduction in local pollutants.

says Eric

I like the idea of hybrid motors, at least until batteries are perfected 100%. But here in Wisconsin it gets too cold for battery banks left outdoors. Not everyone has a heated garage.

Apr 13, 2019
What if you just like gasoline cars, and don't want to spend 5-8 hours "gassing up" your vehicle? Freedom of choice, for as long as the STATE allows it.

Apr 13, 2019
antigoracle, the retarded liar wrote:
Doubt they accounted for the loss in generation and distribution of the electricity.
http://insideener...ur-plug/


Just a few days ago, you claimed that The Netherlands only produced 6% of its electrical power through renewable means. To 'prove' that, you posted a link that says it's 14%.

How can anyone take such a lying imbecile cretin seriously?

Apr 13, 2019
Absolutely not correct. To charge EV you need electricity, and most electricity is produced in coal powered electric stations

Reading seems to be a lost art. They *specifically* took this into account in this study.

You also do not seem to understand that even if more coal is burned to generate power for EVs a lot less petrol is burned.

Coal powerplants are vastly more efficient than a small engine in a car (and can have entirley different means of scrubbing pollution installed compared to crummy catalytic converter in a car). Coupled with the hugely higher efficiency of EVs over internal combustion engines cars it's trivial to see the benefirs.


Apr 13, 2019
Airbus needs to start making hydrogen airplanes.
We can't continue with current airplanes, it is ridiculous.
Actually, governments should regulate airplanes emissions also and force Airbus or Boing to change their kerosene to hydrogen. Very possible to do it, it is only a question of will.
This environmentally sustainable solution exists for aircrafts.

Apr 13, 2019
gotta make money somehow , and i guess electrics are easier to 'self drive' in the 'brave new world'

Apr 14, 2019
Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages

Pollution is poisoning the farms and villages of the region that processes the precious minerals
https://www.thegu...ollution

Is your phone tainted by the misery of the 35,000 children in Congo's mines?
https://www.thegu...ines-drc

Apr 14, 2019
Electric vehicles are the way of the future. Engineers are implementing the work of scientists because the economics of electric vehicles and the energy production by photovoltaics and windmills is and will be more economical than the current model. These are exciting times.

Apr 14, 2019
unrealone
Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages
Do you think that coal mining does not have an environmental impact? What is your solution?

https://www.thegu...ng-china

Apr 14, 2019
@unrealone1.

Endemic corruption of local/central authorities means LAX/NO safety/environmental standards, production-at-all-costs' policies, benefitting the corrupt few running China etc.

That is what will happen to USA if Trump's 'menagerie' get control of EPA, Industrial Safety etc agencies.

The reason western countries introduced sensible anti-pollution/anti-poisoning standards is starkly demonstrated by what happened BEFORE such standards applied; ie, exactly what China etc corrupt countries are suffering right now, from coal/other mining operations that put 'criminal industry mafia' profits before general populace's interests.

Trump and his 'criminal/traitorous mafia' gang want to take USA back to BAD old says when 'industry mafia' could pollute/poison for PRIVATE PROFIT and LEAVE cleanup/health COSTS for PUBLIC to bear.

Anyway, in OZ we have great reserves of minerals and good environmental standards/regulations. So OZ will be a major supplier soon enough. :)

Apr 15, 2019
Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages

Ya know...once you've seen what e.g. oil drilling is doing to the environment in Nigearia or Venezuela (or what fracking is doing in the US) the rare-earth mining in China is a pretty paltry problem by comparison.

Even more so since rare earth ore isn't used up whereas the products of oil and gas wells just keep going up in smoke and have to be replaced.

Yes, mining conditions should improve. but we really need to keep things in perspective.

Apr 15, 2019
"Electric vehicle adoption improves air quality and climate outlook"

-Plus they're lots more fun
https://youtu.be/ARzujfRiQ3c

-Schadenfreude. So sad.
or what fracking is doing in the US
-And what's fracking doing in the US besides a few earthquakes and a whole lot of voodoo hype? And all those jobs and all that cheap energy?

Apr 15, 2019
Absolutely not correct. To charge EV you need electricity, and most electricity is produced in coal powered electric stations.
OrionConstellati

In many parts of the world, most electricity is NOT produced by coal power. Even in those parts of the world were it still is, that is changing relatively fast and eventually, and not too far into the future assuming humanity doesn't mainly consist of complete morons, NO electricity will be produced by coal. So you have no point here.

This article is perfectly valid and we should take note of these findings.

Apr 15, 2019
Coal is a flat-out loser/relic of an energy technology dating to the early 1800s. It's a toxic soup of filth embedded in rock that pollutes not only combustion products like CO2, but a laundry list of toxic pollutants that ends up in the food chain. Getting rid of coal-fired plants is not only desirable, but it's also happening out of necessity. As EV's come online, that is one less oil burning CO2 source machine removed from the streets and one more clean air vehicle powered by the GRID. The GRpID is increasingly becoming a renewable energy powered source so overall it's a win for renewables.

The other opinions of the climate-denier goon squad aren't worth your time spitting up. Those goons won't be happy until CO2 is 1000ppm. I'm a scientist and I wouldn't experiment with those levels and expect life as normal. Denier goons are goony goony goonheads.

Apr 17, 2019
Absolutely not correct. To charge EV you need electricity, and most electricity is produced in coal powered electric stations. Thus, as more electrical vehicles will enter the market, as more coal you have to burn to provide electricity for charge of EV. So. less pollution from car exhaust and more pollution from coal-fired power plants. Situation only will change if renewable energy sources will be used, such as solar, wind and fusion...


You are a liar. I'll perhaps try to be a bit more charitable about it - your lies are simply based on your being Rip Van Winkle, asleep for the last 20 years. That is the absolute best compliment I can give to your worthless non-contribution.

Apr 17, 2019
EVs do improve local air quality, necessarily so even if all that electricity is coal powered, but especially when it is not. But there are two fundamental problems with EVs: Safety: the batteries must be arranged in a T shape so that they are protected from exploding during a collision, and range and durability of these batteries must improve. Specifically, these batteries must be good for at least 200 000 km prior to degradation. Anything less is an insult. Hybrid done right technically has the most potential, for serious acceleration "quick start engine accelerate" then immediately turn off during perceived cruising (system monitors this). Basically engines designed for fast repeated ignitions and algorithms deciding whether to use the battery or gas. During traffic this will lead to serious reduction in local pollutants. Everything on the market is terrible.


I won't call you a liar. I will simply call you stupid. Perhaps you're capable of learning..?


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