Lots of nasty stuff comes out of motor vehicle tailpipes. The policy discussion around shifting away from internal combustion engines and towards electric vehicles tends to focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but pollution like nitrogen dioxide can make people sick by worsening asthma and other respiratory diseases.
A new study has now connected the dots between EV adoption and better health outcomes. Researchers in California looked at how nitrogen dioxide levels and asthma-related emergency room visits were affected by an increase in the number of EVs driven at the zip code level. An increase of 20 EVs per 1,000 people in a zip code was associated with a decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels and a 3.2% drop in asthma-related emergency room visits. The study also found that EV adoption was higher in zip codes with higher average educational attainment, indicating that the poorest communities are benefiting the least from the transition away from internal combustion engines.
As Grid has reported, Philadelphia currently lacks a plan to facilitate EV ownership in the city (particularly important since so many drivers rely on street parking) and instead has emphasized other modes of transportation such as walking, public transit and cycling. Increasing adoption of non-driving modes should also cut tailpipe emissions, but to the extent that not having anywhere to plug in will hold back EV adoption in Philadelphia for people who still have to drive, it will also miss an opportunity to improve the lives of residents who have asthma.