A recent study by researchers at the University of Tennessee has explored the impact of electric vehicles on China’s air quality and particulate matter emissions (the most likely to result in health issues).
According to the study published in TreeHugger, the particulate matter impacts per passenger-km in most Chinese cities are greater for e-cars than for petrol cars (3.6x on average), lower than for diesel cars (2.5x on average) and equal to diesel buses.
The key reason for the increased particulate matter and environmental performance of the electric vehicles is highly dependent on the source of electricity. With around three quarters of China’s electricity coming from dirty local coal, fairly lax air-quality regulations, densely populated coastal regions (many cities are located near very dirty coal plants) and the life cycle impact of electricity, it is clear that electric vehicles in China are going to result in negative environmental outcomes.
The good news is, however, that China is very much at the extreme of the situation, and when compared to countries such as France and Norway, where almost all electricity comes from very clean sources, the results are very different, with electric vehicles having a positive impact on air quality and emissions throughout their life cycle.