A study from a Californian university has found an increased uptake of electric vehicles in that state could be linked to a reduction in air pollution and hospital admissions between 2013 and 2019.

The study, conducted by the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, primarily looked at nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in California, asthma-related emergency admissions and electric vehicle ownership by postcode.

The study showed suburbs with a higher percentage of EV ownership had a 3.2 per cent drop in asthma-related emergency admissions over this period, which researchers say can be attributed to a small, suggestive reduction in air pollution.

It was evident within the study that postcodes which had a higher concentration of internal-combustion engines had lower air quality and higher asthma-related health issues when compared to postcodes with an increase in electric vehicle ownership.

The study concluded that there’s an opportunity to “restore environmental justice in communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution and related health problems”.

Results showed postcodes with a low level of bachelor degree qualifications were less likely to purchase an electric vehicle, which researchers suggested could contribute to an “adoption gap” that will slow down the reduction of vehicle-related emissions.

Researchers collated the following data:

  • registration data of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles across every postcode between 2013 and 2019 from the California Department of Motor Vehicles
  • nitrogen dioxide levels and asthma-related visits to the emergency room by postcode from the US Environmental Protection Agency
  • the percentage of adults within each postcode with bachelor degrees, for use as an indicator of a neighbourhood’s overall socioeconomic status

While the study does hold promise that EVs will be able to assist in the reduction of air pollution and health problems, “many questions [still] remain”, according to Erika Garcia, assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine and the study’s lead author.

The report outlines that future studies are required to consider the additional environmental impacts of owning an EV including emissions related to brake and tyre wear, the mining of materials needed to produce EVs, and the disposal of old cars.

Jade Credentino

Jade Credentino is an automotive journalist currently based in Melbourne, Australia. Jade has had a chance to review a variety of vehicles and particularly enjoys SUVs. She enjoys traveling and going on road trips exploring Australia.

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