The shift towards greener vehicles on a mainstream scale has very much been a work in progress over the last few decades. It started with the introduction of expensive hybrids, which then got cheaper. And now we’re seeing the same evolution in pure EVs.
And while most environmental pundits would stress that it’s too early for people to be patting themselves on the back, it seems like the shift is already reaping some benefits.
A recent study from Harvard, published in its ‘Health benefits of decreases in on-road transportation emissions in the United States from 2008 to 2017’ paper, claims that deaths attributed to vehicle emissions have dropped significantly since the new millennium.
As the paper’s title suggests, it compared data from 2008 to 2017. Deaths caused by emissions dropped from 27,700 to 19,800 over the nine-year stretch, with the paper even stating that had 2008’s emissions levels continued unabated to 2017, annual deaths would have almost hit 50,000.
The paper didn’t just pour over data. It used epidemiological evidence and other theories to come to conclusions, adding that the reduction in emissions and subsequent improvement in health also resulted in a US$270million economic benefit.
Despite all of this sounding like great news, the paper noted that most of the work that had been done, while better for citizens and air pollution, didn’t necessarily address climate change.
“Despite substantial progress in reducing emissions, you have this counteracting effect of population and larger vehicles,” Ernani Choma, a lead author of the paper, told the Associated Press.
“So it will be hard to achieve substantial progress if we don’t enact more stringent policies.”
“Good environmental policy has drastically reduced transportation emissions over the past decade,” added Sumil Thakrar, a University of Minnesota air quality researcher.
“But getting a good understanding of the benefits of those emissions controls is hard because it requires keeping track of a lot of other moving parts. And I think the authors do a remarkable job.”
Between 2011 and 2020, the amount of BEVs and PHEVs in America grew from 16,000 vehicles to 1.7 million vehicles. Over the same period of time, according to the Environment America Research & Policy Center, the amount of power produced by solar has increased by a factor of 23, and the amount produced by wind has tripled.