Vehicle Pollution

“In Australia in 2000 motor vehicle-related ambient air pollution accounted for between 900 and 4500 morbidity cases—cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases and bronchitis—and between 900 and 2000 early deaths.  The economic cost of morbidity ranges from $0.4 billion to $1.2 billion, while the economic cost of mortality ranges from $1.1 billion to $2.6 billion.”  Health Impacts of Transport Emissions in Australia: Economic Costs

Billions of taxpayer dollars spent each year as a result of vehicle emissions which as the report points out are the main cause of air pollution.  Other forms of transport contribute relatively little – “it is clear from the available estimates that aircraft, shipping, boating and rail contribute a comparatively small proportion of total airshed emissions”

In the United States transportation is the largest single source of air pollution.  The same situation regarding the link between air pollution and vehicle exhaust emissions is common to most world major population centres.  The WHO estimates 3.3 million premature deaths each year caused by outdoor air pollution with vehicle exhaust playing a major role.

An electric vehicle fleet will lead to immense improvements in the quality of air in city areas. There are no localised emissions from electric vehicles. Depending on the type of power generation supplying the electricity for electric vehicles, air pollution may still occur in centralised locations (such as coal fired power plants) but it is easier to control these emissions than controlling emissions from millions of individual vehicles.

If electricity is generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, wave, emissions are effectively eliminated althogether. The resulting health benefits from both financial and human perspectives are enormous. It really is time to quit the petroleum based toxic vehicle fleet.

Pollutants emitted from petroleum based motor vehicles exhausts include the following:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Suspended particles, PM-10 particles less than 10 microns in size.
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Polycyclic hydrocarbons

The adverse health effects from chronic exposure to petroleum combustion are well documented and alarming.

The societal costs of air pollution from vehicles is an externalised one with taxpayers picking up the tab for the detrimental effects of combusting petroleum products. These costs are significant in dollar value and also in the human cost of shortened life expectations and chronic illness.

Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use by the U.S. National Research Council concludes that in 2005, the vehicle sector produced $56 billion in health and other non-climate-change damages in the U.S.

Traffic pollution has been found to be a major killer across Europe. According to research published in 2000, 6% of deaths per year in France, Austria and Switzerland are due to air pollution.  Traffic fumes were responsible for at least 500,000 asthma attacks and more than 25,000 new cases of chronic bronchitis each year.

In the UK it is estimated that air pollution is the cause for 1 in 10 deaths due to lung cancer. In 2010 King’s College Environmental Research Group estimated that 35,000 premature deaths occur in the UK every year as a direct result of air pollution and that average lifespan is reduced by seven to eight months. In London road transport contributes almost 80% of particulate emissions.

With an electric fleet much of the air pollution found in major cities would be significantly reduced. This will contribute to much cleaner urban environments, a reduction in medical treatment and expenditure related to air pollution, an easing on the healthcare system, longer life expectancies and better health outcomes for city dwellers.

The evidence is well documented and presents a compelling reason to electrify the global fleet as quickly as possible.