Savings from Green Transport

Electric vehicles could save the US billions each year, study finds, and also save hundreds of thousands of lives.

While electric vehicles usually cost more for the consumer at the point of purchase, a new study has applied a much broader scope to the economics of green transportation and found it could actually save the US tens of billions of dollars each year.

The analysis combined climate modeling with data on vehicle fleets and public health to reveal that electric vehicles (EVs) could negate significant damages brought by climate change and air pollution, in addition to preventing many premature deaths.

Using a chemistry climate model, the team was able to simulate how pollutants from internal combustion engines interact with the weather and emissions from other sources such as power generation, and how the picture could change depending on what percentage of electric vehicles were on the road. This was then combined with publicly available health data to ascertain the health impacts of a range of different EV-uptake scenarios.

“The social cost of carbon and value of statistical life are much-studied and much-debated metrics,” says Daniel Horton, senior author of the study by Chicago's Northwestern University and published in GeoHealth. “But they are regularly used to make policy decisions. It helps put a tangible value on the consequences of emitting largely intangible gases into the public sphere that is our shared atmosphere."

Under the scenario where 25 percent of internal combustion cars were replaced with EVs, the scientists calculate it would save the US around US$17 billion each year. Under another scenario where 75 percent of ICE cars were replaced, they calculate that those savings could balloon to $70 billion a year, all while avoiding hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

“From an engineering and technological standpoint, people have been developing solutions to climate change for years,” adds Northwestern’s Daniel Horton, senior author of the study. “But we need to rigorously assess these solutions. This study presents a nuanced look at EVs and energy generation and found that EV adoption not only reduces greenhouse gases but saves lives.”