A study from the University of California found that increased use of electric vehicles in the state can be linked to reduced air pollution and hospital admissions between 2013 and 2019.
A study conducted by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, mainly looked at nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in California, asthma-related emergency admissions and electric vehicle ownership by zip code.
The study showed suburbs with a higher percentage of EV ownership had a 3.2 percent decrease in asthma-related emergency admissions during this period, which the researchers said could be attributed to a small reduction in air pollution.
It has been proven in studies that zip codes with a higher concentration of internal combustion engines have lower air quality and higher asthma-related health issues when compared to zip codes with an increase in electric vehicle ownership.
The study concludes that there is an opportunity to “restore environmental justice in communities disproportionately affected by pollution and related health problems”.
The results show zip codes with low levels of bachelor’s degree qualifications are less likely to purchase an electric vehicle, which the researchers suggest could contribute to an “adoption gap” that will slow reductions in vehicle-related emissions.
The researcher collected the following data:
- electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle registration data across every zip code between 2013 and 2019 from the California Department of Motor Vehicles
- nitrogen dioxide levels and asthma-related visits to the emergency room by zip code from the US Environmental Protection Agency
- the percentage of adults in each zip code with a bachelor’s degree, to be used as an indicator of overall neighborhood socioeconomic status
Although the study promises that EVs will be able to help in the reduction of air pollution and health problems, “many questions [still] permanent”, according to Erika Garcia, assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine and lead author of the study.
The report outlines that future studies are needed to consider the additional environmental impacts of owning an EV including emissions related to braking and tire wear, the mining of materials needed to produce EVs, and the disposal of old cars.