- A widespread transition to electric vehicles (EVs) could help avoid more than $72 billion in public health costs nationally in 2050 due to emission reductions, according to a new report from the American Lung Association (ALA).
- The "Road to Clean Air" report found that emission reductions from EVs could prevent more than 93,000 asthma attacks, 6,300 premature deaths and 416,000 lost workdays in 2050. The report also found that a transition to 100% EV use would avoid climate impacts worth $113 billion in 2050 while providing economic impacts around green job creation and innovation.
- Five of the largest U.S. cities, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas, would see the top benefits from this transition, according to the report, while 18 states would gain at least $1 billion each in public health benefits.
Will Barrett, the ALA's director of clean air advocacy and a report author, said in a press call Monday that the report’s findings stem from working with the EPA's MOtor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES), which tracks and projects vehicles on the road and their emissions, and the EPA's Co-Benefits Risk Assessment (COBRA), which helps state and local governments estimate the health and economic benefits of clean energy policies.
ALA also made use of the Argonne National Laboratory's Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model to analyze and simulate emissions from refining and power sectors, as those sectors help power vehicles with internal combustion engines and EVs, respectively, Barrett said. The health and economic benefits will only be realized if 100% of passenger car sales are electric by 2040, and all sales of heavy-duty vehicles are electric by 2045, according to the report. Barrett said this means a "widespread shift" is needed.
Leadership and strong policies from federal, state and local governments will be needed to achieve those goals, Barrett said. The federal government must allow California and other states to pursue their own, more stringent vehicle emissions standards than national guidelines and mandate greater EV availability, a rule that the Trump administration and US EPA has sought to roll back by revoking waivers last year, he said. The ALA said it is also incumbent on other states to aggressively follow California's example, while cities can help ease the transition to electrification with a "strong investment" in charging infrastructure.
"The benefits in our report are by no means automatic," Barrett said. "We need leadership, we need policies, we need investments in this transition to zero emissions vehicles at every level."
The ALA also noted that the public health impacts of climate change often are felt the most by people of color and lower-income communities, which are often situated near major roadways and subject to the most emissions. The ALA’s "State of the Air" report earlier this year found that people of color are more than twice as likely as White people to live in counties that have days with unhealthy ozone pollution days, particle pollution days and unhealthy annual particle levels.
Meredith McCormack, medical director at the Pulmonary Function Laboratory and an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said living near major roadways increases residents’ chances of developing asthma. That is especially the case for children, who McCormack said on the call "don't reach their full capacity in terms of their lung development" because of exposure to pollution from a young age.