Air pollution is a major problem in cities and densely populated urban areas and has been for decades. It’s largely caused by traditional motor vehicles which are powered by gasoline and diesel, which emit substances like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and other particulate matter.
Researchers have linked these substances to the development of asthma, lung cancer and heart disease in humans, as well as higher levels of pollution. By comparison, electric vehicles produce zero direct emissions that contribute to climate change and smog. But are EVs the best solution to the problem of air pollution?
There’s clear evidence that electric vehicles contribute to decreasing levels of pollution in cities. In China, 435,000 new charging ports were built in major cities, causing residents to switch from motor to electric vehicles. The lifecycle emissions of an electric car are typically lower than other motor vehicles and, depending on where the car is being driven and what the electricity used to power it is made of, EVs also emitted fewer greenhouse gases.
The less positive
Electric vehicles don’t completely cancel out emissions. The cars still release particle pollution through the wear and tear of tyres, breaks and road surfaces. Not much is known about how this impacts pollution levels. Moreover, for electric vehicles to make a significant impact on pollution, additional incentives and funding for consumers are needed to make the switch more viable on a larger scale. Money also needs to be put into infrastructure to support new EV drivers at a local and national level for cities to see a long-term decrease in pollution levels.
With further innovation in the design and environmental efficacy of the electric vehicle, it will continue to be a significant combatant against the problem of air pollution in our cities and urban areas. However, it will have to work in tandem with other environmental policies, government investment and continuing innovation from manufacturers. Consumers will have to be incentivised to make the switch from motor to electric and infrastructure will need to be adapted to accommodate an increasing number of electric vehicles on the road. Ultimately, electric cars are one of the best solutions to pollution problems, but they are not the only one.