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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Northwestern: Electric Vehicle Adoption Improves Air Quality and Climate Outlook

If you have ever wondered how much electric vehicle (EV) adoption actually matters for the environment, a new study provides evidence that making this switch would improve overall air quality and lower carbon emissions.

The Northwestern University study quantified the differences in air pollution generated from battery-powered electric vehicles versus internal combustion engines. The researchers found that even when their electricity is generated from combustion sources, electric vehicles have a net positive impact on air quality and climate change.

“In contrast to many of the scary climate change impact stories we read in the news, this work is about solutions,” said Northwestern’s Dr. Daniel Horton, senior author of the study. “We know that climate change is happening, so what can we do about it? One technologically available solution is to electrify our transportation system. We find that EV adoptions reduces net carbon emissions and has the added benefit of reducing air pollutants, thereby improving public health.”

The research published Friday, April 5 in the journal Atmospheric Environment. Dr. Horton is an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Jordan Schnell, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science in the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, was the paper’s first author.

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