Electric vehicles are pretty much inevitable at this point, with carmakers, led by all-EV disruptors such as Tesla, transitioning their respective fleets to electric. Yet despite this, there are still a lot of skeptics who argue that electric vehicles do not really do anything useful for the environment.
A study from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California has provided some real-world observations about electric vehicles and how they positively impact the environment. The researchers’ study leveraged publicly available datasets to analyze a “natural experiment” occurring in California as residents transitioned to electric cars.
The study analyzed data on total zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) registrations, air pollution levels, and asthma-related emergency room visits throughout California from 2013 to 2019. The researchers found that as ZEV adoption rates increased within a particular zip code, the corresponding levels of local air pollution and asthma-related emergency room visits in the areas also decreased.
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, noted that the study shows that changes made at the local level could already improve the health of a community. This is a notable victory for sustainable transportation and the fight against climate change.
“When we think about the actions related to climate change, often it’s on a global level. But the idea that changes being made at the local level can improve the health of your own community could be a powerful message to the public and to policy makers,” Dr. Garcia said.
The study’s findings were outlined in an Abstract published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. A section of the Abstract can be viewed below.
“We conducted a zip code-level ecologic study relating changes in annual number of ZEVs (nZEV) per 1000 population from 2013 to 2019 to: (i) annual average monitored nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations and (ii) annual age-adjusted asthma-related emergency department (ED) visit rates, while considering educational attainment.
“The average nZEV increased from 1.4 per 1000 population in 2013 (standard deviation [SD]: 2.1) to 14.7 per 1000 in 2019 (SD: 14.7). ZEV adoption was considerably slower in zip codes with lower educational attainment (p < 0.0001). A within-zip code increase of 20 ZEVs per 1000 was associated with a − 0.41 ppb change in annual average NO2 (95 % confidence interval [CI]:-1.12, 0.29) in an adjusted model. A within-zip code increase of 20 ZEVs per 1000 population was associated with a 3.2 % decrease in annual age-adjusted rate of asthma-related ED visits (95 % CI:-5.4, −0.9),” the researchers noted in the study’s Abstract.
The study also showed that there is a significant “adoption gap” in low-resource zip codes when it comes to the adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). The research team found that while the number of total ZEVs increased over time in California, the rate of adoption was much slower in low-resource areas. This disparity highlights an opportunity to address environmental justice in communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution and its associated health issues.
A link to the researchers’ study can be found here.
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