Published on August 21st, 2020 |
by Johnna Crider
August 21st, 2020 by Johnna Crider
A new study has found that widespread EV adoption (25–75% adoption) could save the U.S. $17–70 billion every year. The study wanted to look at the health and economic impacts of EV adoption. Researches at Northwestern University analyzed climate modeling data with that of public health to see the wide scope of how EVs impact Americans and the economy.
The study, titled “Public Health and Climate Benefits and Tradeoffs of U.S. Vehicle Electrification,” found that if EVs were to replace just 25% of gas and diesel vehicles that are on the road now, the U.S. would save around $17 billion annually. How? By avoiding the double whammy damages of climate change and air pollution.
In another, more intense scenario that would replace 75% of the ICE vehicles with EVs and an increase of renewable energy generation, those savings would jump to $70 billion annually. Just imagine if 100% of the cars on the road were EVs as we continued increasing renewables.
Importance of Vehicle Electrification
Daniel Peters, who led the study, explained just how powerful the implications of vehicle electrification truly are. “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, noted, “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.”
The team conducted its study by looking at vehicle fleet and emissions data from 2014. If 25% of American drivers had adopted EVs and the power needed to keep their cars charged came from 2014’s energy infrastructure, this would have prevented 250 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.
The study also pointed out that even though the effects of CO2 are well documented, internal combustion engines (ICE) also create other types of toxic pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone. Peters explained that a good example was observing nitrogen oxides NOx, which is pretty harsh on the respiratory system. However, exposing it to the mix of sunlight and volatile compounds in the atmosphere, both ozone and particulate matter can form. These pollutants can create a vast amount of health problems, such as chronic bronchitis (that’s the worst!), asthma, emphysema, and of course, early death. Once these toxic pollutants exit tailpipes and smokestacks, they mingle with the environment.
The team used a chemistry-climate model that was developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. They were able to see how emissions from combustion engines and power generation sources interact with one another as well as other emission sources. The researchers simulated air pollutant changes across the continental U.S. based on different levels of EV adoption and renewable energy generation. After this, they combined information form county health data from the EPA to assess the health consequences form the air quality changes caused by each electrification scenario.
Next, the team placed dollar values on the climate and health damages that were prevented as a result of EV adoption. They did this by applying social cost of carbon and value of statistical life metrics to their emission change results. Horton noted that both the social cost of carbon and the value of statistical life are often evaluated and debated, yet are regularly used to make policy decisions.
“The social cost of carbon and value of statistical life are much-studied and much-debated metrics, But they are regularly used to make policy decisions. It helps put a tangible value on the consequences of emitting largely intangible gases into the public sphere that is our shared atmosphere,” he said.
In the conclusion of the study, the authors explained that their analysis of six EV adoption–energy generation scenarios showed that if Americans were to go electric, they could annually prevent “hundreds-to-thousands of premature deaths,” along with reducing CO2 emissions by “hundreds of millions of tons.”
So, not only will the U.S. save billions, but the hundreds of thousands of Americans dying from diseases that are related to air pollution will find it easier to breathe. I have chronic bronchitis — get it 2–3 times a year. I also have asthma and have almost died three times from it. I actually died once — but they brought me back. My point is, if you don’t have respiratory problems, you don’t want them. Trust me on that. Sometimes when I’m walking to the store, it’s hard to breathe when a large truck passes by. Wearing a mask, which is required when out in public in Louisiana, helps — as long as it’s not 1000 degrees out.
I honestly don’t see why it’s so hard to switch to electric when the benefits are right there. $70 billion and fewer hospital visits are major wins in my book.
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