EV Air Quality and Human Health

Time to throw another shovel of dirt on the “EVs are just coal burners” myth.   Professor Volker Sorger’s group, in George Washington University‘s Electrical Engineering department, sought to test that hypothesis.  Their conclusion: no.  In multiple future scenarios, mass adoption of EVs still results in better DC health gwsmloutcomes, despite the area’s four coal plants and negligible hydro.

Pepco’s energy portfolio, while cleaner than the national average, is hardly spotless.  But EVs, as we already knew, use a fraction of the energy of GVs (gas vehicles), as internal combustion and multispeed transmissions are surprisingly lossy.  What’s more, adoption of EVs (which mostly charge at night) gives a utility options to run their plants and grid better.   Further into the future, EVs used as electricity storage (“V2G”) or simply as flexible power demand (“V1G”) enable smart grids, and clean generation (such as wind turbines) closer to demand.  Coal or oil, where used as an electricity source, is often kept away from homes, blunting the health impact.  But gasoline engines emit pollutants everywhere, residential or not.  Overall, EV scenarios showed a noticeable drop in lung cancer, and hundreds of fewer DC/MD/VA cardiopulmonary-related deaths per year. 

Note that this assumed reasonable variations in the generating portfolio in the coming years. I didn’t see the fact that EV owners are far more likely to purchase wind power credits, or install solar panels. Nor did it include solar panels reaching parity with grid rates, with a few predicting a “death spiral.” As solar prices continue falling, even below parity with the grid, the very survival of utilities could be threatened. In DC proper, parity between solar and the grid is projected soon, and technically already here including subsidies and trading in renewable-energy credits.

Nor did this include all the waste heat from gas vehicles literally heating up cities, making people run their air conditioners more.

Other nails in that myth’s coffin:

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