Air Quality, Health, and How Electric Vehicles Help

By September 14, 2017 Blog
Smokestack clouds in sunset sky

In September of 1987, 197 nations from across the globe signed the Montréal Protocol, an international treaty that addresses and attempts to reverse the damage caused to the Earth’s ozone layer by various industrial, commercial and residentially used substances. This week, nearly thirty years later, Geophysical Research Letters published a study that shows how the landmark treaty accomplished just that. The Montreal Protocol became a shining example of what can happen when the international community comes together to address a problem that affects all of us.

Air Quality: 

The treaty was effective at phasing out the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and later, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that were destroying the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. However, the air we breathe remains at risk from other contaminants. While carbon monoxide (and dioxide), sulfur dioxide and other greenhouse gases receive significant press coverage when discussing the air we breathe, particularly in the wake of Dieselgate, additional toxins create havoc for the long-term quality of our air. Lead, arsenic, benzene, hanging particles and even asbestos atmospheric pollution, create profound health ramifications such as mesothelioma cancer to those who live or work in conditions affected by them. Cancer, birth defects, lower IQ in children and reduced lung function of children, difficulty breathing, increased risk of heart disease, stroke and chronic respiratory illness are some of the more profound health side effects of living with these types of air pollution.

How Electric Vehicles Help? 

Electric vehicles help reduce these and other types of air pollution, not just by virtue of eliminating the burning of hydrocarbons for the generation of power, but by developing and advancing manufacturing processes, usage (including consumer share models), construction material and end-of-life recycling. This combined with reductions in gaseous emissions make EVs the clear choice for sustainable transportation in the future. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences found that air deaths from pollution could be reduced by 70% when electric cars dominate the market, and can use renewable sources of electricity, such as solar, geothermal or hydrological power.

There has been much excitement in the last few years with the mainstream adoption of fully electric automobiles, motorcycles and electric bicycles. With other manufacturers jumping into the EV game, like the rebirth of Fisker Automotive (now branded as Karma), and the introduction of fully electric models expected from major manufacturers like Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW, the future only looks better for reduced air pollution of our next generation.

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