Electric cars could bring £1bn health benefits, says study

Climate report argues cutting carbon and air pollution emissions from cars will save UK motorists hundreds of pounds each year

Nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions from UK cars could drop dramatically if six million electric vehicles are deployed on the roads by 2030, according to a new study.

Published by Cambridge Econometrics yesterday (March 9), the ‘Fuelling Britain’s Future’ study argues that boosting infrastructure to enable six million electric or low-carbon vehicles onto UK roads by 2030 would cut NOx from cars by 75% and particulate matter from cars by 91%.

Electric and low emission cars could save more than £1 billion in UK health benefits, the report argues

Electric and low emission cars could save more than £1 billion in UK health benefits, the report argues

And, if numbers rise to 23 million electric cars on UK roads by 2050, this would see a 95% NOx reduction from cars and a 98% particulate matter reduction, the report forecasts.

The report adds: “The health benefits associated with these air-quality improvements are estimated to be worth £1 billion to £1.2 billion to the UK economy.”

Commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, the research project assesses the individual and national benefits of shifting to low emission technologies, which it argues would have co-benefits for both air quality and carbon reduction.

Should there indeed be such an uptake in electric and low emission vehicles — along with continued advances in the efficiency of all new motor vehicles — it is estimated that fuelling the average new car could be £600 cheaper per year than for today’s new cars.

The report adds that the national cost of running and replacing cars can be £5 billion-£7 billion cheaper each year than without low-carbon technologies.

In addition, it argues that by reducing the UK’s dependence on imported oil — if matched across other major oil-consuming countries — this would result in a reduction in oil demand and therefore in oil prices, which would also benefit UK motorists.

According to the report, current estimates are that around 150,000 tonnes of NOx and around 3,000 tonnes of particulates are emitted by Britain’s car fleet each year.

NOx, it explains, reacts with ammonia to form nitric acid, which can damage lungs and worsen respiratory diseases. It also reacts with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to form ozone, which can also affect the tissue and functioning of the lungs.

The report states: “Since NOx is produced in the combustion of fossil fuels, it is also reduced by technologies to cut CO2. Shifting to low-carbon vehicles as described in this study would substantially reduce NOx emissions from cars by 75% in 2030 and by 95% in 2050.

“In short, decarbonisation would have the additional benefit of effectively eradicating direct NOx emissions from the vehicle tailpipe.”

The report adds: “The cost of motoring will fall in Britain as a result of efforts to tackle carbon emissions and clean up urban air pollution. Improvements to the efficiency of internal combustion vehicles are already saving motorists hundreds of pounds each year.”

Support for the report’s findings has come from across the motor industry, including Nissan, Michelin and the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers (EUROBAT).

Darren Lindsey, Michelin’s head of government and public affairs UK and Ireland, said: “It can no longer come as a surprise to anyone that reducing emissions delivers commercial benefits to industry as well as benefits to the environment and consumers. To maximise those benefits, however, international policymakers have to create a consistent and robust regulatory framework.”

Related Links:

European Climate Foundation’s ‘Fuelling Britain’s Future’ report


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