How EVs are Improving Air Quality in Cities

How Electric Vehicles are Improving Air Quality in Cities

The internal combustion engine has had a considerable negative impact on the quality of the air we breathe. In built-up urban centres, where vehicles are packed into bumper-to-bumper rush-hour gridlock, this negative effect is especially pronounced. 

It’s partly for this reason that clean air laws are being rolled out in city centres across the world. By making the switch to the nascent battery electric vehicle, or a hybrid, we’ll avoid all of those exhaust fumes, while also helping to drive down overall emissions, and deal with noise pollution at the same time.

But does this theory stack up in reality? Let’s take a look.

How bad is the air in our cities?

Research by the European Environment Agency points to fine particulate matter as a particularly egregious form of pollution. Specifically, it points to those particles which are smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5, for short).

These small particles can easily find their way into our lungs, where they can drive rates of lung cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cancer. It cites the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which rates PM2.5 as a leading cause of the disease.

In London, the concentration of PM2.5 stands, coincidentally, at around 2.5 microgrammes per cubic metre. This figure rises to more than sixteen, however, when we consider only the worst-affected areas in the city centre.

 The Mayor of London’s office, in a 2019 report, outlined its aim to meet the WHO’s guidelines for this form of pollution by 2030. This means that no part of the city will experience an annual average of more than ten microgrammes per cubic metre. 

Similar initiatives are being put in place in cities across the UK, and they all have one thing in common: the preference for Clean Air Zones as a means of discouraging emissions.

How EVs improve air quality

Electric vehicles do not produce any particulate matter at the point of use, except for the particles which are left behind by the tyres. Given the direction of the industry, and the explosion in clean air zones, it should be no surprise that major manufacturers have invested heavily in the design and development of their own electric vehicles. 

Currently, these vehicles are more expensive than their gas-guzzling counterparts. This means that, if you’re looking to invest, it might make sense to look for additional products to offset the cost of depreciation. BMW gap insurance, for example, will cover you if you’re involved in a prang with your brand new i7.

If you’re willing to wait, however, it seems inevitable that electric vehicles will become more affordable than traditional ICE-based ones, as production of the former scales up at the expense of the latter.