California is advancing its fight against climate change by pushing initiatives for the electric vehicle industry. Last year, city officials announced the plan to sell only zero-emission vehicles across the state by 2035.
Now, new research reveals that the Golden State's cleaner transportation initiatives are paying off, leading to better air quality in areas with higher numbers of electric vehicles.
Cleaner Vehicles— Cleaner Air and Healthier Citizens
According to the study, there is a correlation between electric vehicles and improvement in the composition of the air in Southern California. Led by the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, the team based its findings on pollution levels data between 2013 and 2019 and the state's air quality throughout the study.
The highlight of the findings was a decrease of .41 ppb (parts per billion) for every 20 additional cars per 1,000 people. With only 2% of electric vehicles in the city, this indicates a significant reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentrations as compared to California's average NOx requirements of 30 ppb.
The researchers also linked higher electric vehicle presence and lower NOx with asthma reductions. A 3.2% decrease in emergency room visits related to asthma for every 20 electric automobiles per 1,000 Californians in certain zip codes. Nitrogen dioxide pollution is related to vehicle tailpipes and is the main cause of smog formation with a variety of detrimental health impacts. Given that California's main source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is the transportation industry accounting for 40.1% of total GHG emissions, lowering NOx volume has shown to directly impact the number of harmful elements that trigger health problems.
According to Erika Garcia, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine and the study's lead author, climate change-related actions are often a worldwide issue. Nonetheless, the notion that local reforms can have a positive impact on community health may be a strong message to the general public and decision-makers, according to Garcia.
Despite the minimal EV entry, the positive outcomes of the study promises a bright future for California's air quality. The senior author of the study, Sandrah Eckel, PhD, an associate professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, said it best, "We're excited about shifting the conversation towards climate change mitigation and adaptation, and these results suggest that transitioning to ZEVs is a key piece of that."
The effects of greenhouse gases and climate change are already taking place in California and around the world. Air pollution-related problems like asthma take over 1000 lives worldwide in a single day. While fatalities linked to toxic air exposure have reduced over the years in the U.S., air pollution is to blame for around 60,200 deaths annually. Over 137 million Americans still reside in locations where the air quality is below federal or state requirements, which has several negative consequences, particularly for children and the elderly. More widespread use of electric vehicles and increased investments in electrified public transportation, along with encouraging walking and biking, can help in progressing not just California's but the country's GHG emission reduction targets.
Related blog: California Clean Air Day