By Cal Widdall
Ever felt like the media is trying to convince you that pretty much everything is bad for your health? Well you’re about to get that feeling once more, as a study has shown that the total air pollution caused by electronic cars in China may be worse than conventional vehicles.
The implicit assumption that E-cars are better for the environment than filthy, gas guzzling vehicles comes from the belief that they avoid the use of fossil fuels. In China, however, 85% of the country’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, specifically coal (95%).
The study by Chris Cherry, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of Tennessee, looked at the amount of PM2.5 generated by the complete process of powering each type of vehicle in China, including emissions from oil mining and electricity generation.
Taking into account what Cherry calls ‘well-to-wheel’ and ‘station-to-wheel’ emissions, the per passenger-km particulate output of an electric car is, on average, 3.6 times higher than that of a gas powered car. Didn’t think it was going to be that high, did you?
However, besides the fact that the majority of these emissions occur outside of densely populated cities, Cherry admits that the findings don’t apply to other countries such as the U.S. due to cleaner electricity generation. He says the study was conducted in China because of the popularity of electric vehicles, which outnumber conventional vehicles 2:1.
Though fine particulate emissions may be higher in electric vehicles, they are still far better for the environment in terms of other pollutants such as CO2. Cherry’s study is advocating an improvement in the Chinese power sector rather than a mass E-vehicle smashing.
But, then again, ‘Electric cars generally good for the environment’ doesn’t make a great headline does it?