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Long Trial Shows Electric Cars Make Positive Impact

Image: Newcastle Univ.Image: Newcastle Univ.Electric vehicles could play a key role in driving down pollution in cities after it was revealed daily levels of atmospheric Nitrogen Dioxide in the UK regularly exceed the recommended safety limits.

Now experts leading a major three-year trial into the impact of electric vehicle — and the role they could play in transport systems of the future — have shown that rolling them out across city roads would protect both human health and the environment.

Outdoor air pollution causes approximately 1.3 million deaths every year worldwide. In 2011, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report highlighted that poor air quality reduces life expectancy in the UK by around eight months and that up to 50,000 premature deaths in the UK every year are attributable to air pollution.

Data gathered and analyzed by transport experts at Newcastle Univ. shows that daytime air pollution levels in towns and cities regularly exceed the government’s recommended 40µg m-3 (21 parts per billion) for prolonged periods – putting people’s health at risk.

Now the SwitchEV study – the first of its kind in the UK – has shown that not only could electric vehicles reduce transport-related pollution in our cities, they also produce less CO2 per km than a combustion engine, even when the pollution associated with electricity generation at power stations is taken into account.

Funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, the three-year investigation is part of a major £10.7million trial investigating the impact that electric vehicles could have on the environment, our transport systems and driver behavior.

Using in-vehicle loggers, details such as distance traveled, route, driving behavior and re-charging times have been recorded and analyzed for over 71,600 electric vehicle journeys and 19,900 re-charging events.

The team found that for all the electric vehicles in the study, their carbon efficiency was better than an equivalent internal combustion (IC) engine vehicle. An average new build IC produces around 140g CO2/kg (not counting CO2 produced during fuel production / transport, which adds around 15 percent to the total emissions), while the average carbon output for the EV’s used in the trial was 85g CO2/kg (based on a UK electricity grid mix).

Charging during off-peak times – when less carbon intensive and renewable energy sources are being used to power the grid – together with more efficient driver behavior would reduce this carbon output even further.

And because electric vehicles produce zero exhaust gases, introducing more of them to our cities’ roads would drive down pollution in the most congested – and often highly populated – areas, such as city centers and around schools.

Presenting their findings, the team led by Future Transport Systems and Newcastle Univ. together with Nissan, Avid Vehicles, Simon Bailes Peugeot, Smith Electric Vehicles and Liberty Electric Cars, say the study has proved that electric vehicles are set to play a key role in our transport systems of the future.
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