Rush hour traffic in Washington, D.C. (photo by Flickr user haddensavix)Enlarge Photo
As an electric car owner, you're probably used to the accusatory look people give you when they inquire as to where your electricity comes from.
The answer they're looking for is power stations, of course--before launching into a tirade about plug-in vehicles being just as dirty as regular combustion vehicles.
Only they aren't. Even ignoring the fact that EV efficiency means their carbon emission output is lower, new research suggests that power stations themselves are responsible for fewer pollution-related premature deaths than road transport.
Topping the list of contributors is road transport, on 53,000. Power generation is close behind, on 52,000. So neither is guilt-free.
But Navigant suggests there's a good reason why cars, which have become far, far cleaner in recent years, are still causing more pollution-related deaths: Location.
In your average city, you're likely to find tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of vehicles.
You aren't likely to find a large power station, belching smoke in the centre of a city.
Essentially, people tend to live in areas heavily populated by cars and trucks, rather than power stations. So it's fairly clear what kind of pollution they're more likely to be affected by.
It's why electric cars have so much promise in urban areas. They cut that local pollution down to zero, but thanks to their efficiency, don't cause an equal amount of pollution at the other end.
And if you live in a state with higher renewable energy generation, such as California, the net pollution--not to mention net greenhouse gas emissions--goes down even further.
The other argument is that, for the time being, a certain level of pollution from power generation is unavoidable--unless you're willing to abandon every piece of electronic technology in your house. Local pollution from vehicles is not unavoidable though--electric cars provide a way to minimize that problem.
Cutting urban pollution and reducing the number of premature pollution-related deaths each year is a compelling argument for switching to plug-in vehicles even if you don't believe in climate change.