Being urban dwellers in cosmopolitan cities world-wide, we all know & have felt the negative health impacts of air pollution. In cities world wide the leading cause of air pollution is automobiles. And we have all felt had that bout of allergic sneeze, sore throats to even breathing issues because of this.
Today we have Palak Thakur (a go green enthusiast) – a researcher in The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and she shares with us information on automobiles & air pollution. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a leading think tank dedicated to conducting research for sustainable development based out of India, but with members from Norway to Paris like Prof Laurence Tubiana. *
(cover image courtesy: Tesla motors)

“Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health” – Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director


The problem

Clean air is birth right for human wellbeing. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 also targets to “Ensure healthy lives and promotes well-being for all at all ages”. The sub-goal 3.9 targets to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused due to air pollution by 2030. Globally, air pollution is recognised as one of the major health hazards. Release of various harmful gaseous emissions and particulate matters from combustion of fossil fuels that are used in transportation, power generation, industrial sector, and other economic activities causes air pollution. Air pollution is recognised as one of the major health hazards. Air pollution has led to significant health problems such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and acute respiratory disease.
Ambient air pollution, which consists of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), is the greatest risk to health causing more than 3 million premature deaths worldwide every year (WHO, WHO, 2014).
Tail pipe emissions consist of harmful gaseous emissions such as NOx, CO, Hydrocarbons and fine particulate matter which causes health issues. However, composition of gaseous and PM varies in diesel and petrol vehicles. Globally in urban areas, suspended particulate matter emitted from tail pipe emissions account for 30% of the total fine PM 2.5 (WHO, Health Effects of transport on Air pollution, 2005). Due to increase in vehicles and lack of sustainable transportation and urban planning interventions, there is increase in number of people exposed to vehicular pollution and increase in number of hours of exposure. Thus vehicular emissions are one of the major contributors of air pollution in urban areas. Most sources of urban vehicular air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers.
SDG goal 11 also targets sustainable cities with reduction of air pollution and better health through better urban planning, sustainable mobility interventions and clean technology. The Clean Air Scenario adopted in tailored combinations to reflect different developing countries and cities can bring about the targeted improvement in air quality.

“Electric vehicles (EVs), in particular, represent one of the most promising pathways to increased energy security & reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.” – Global EV Outlook


The solution – Electric Way

Globally, electric vehicles are important to countries seeking to reduce vehicular emissions. Electric vehicles with zero or reduced tail pipe emission will solve the major problem of vehicular emissions in air pollution. The Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI) is a multi-government policy forum dedicated to accelerating the introduction and adoption of electric vehicles worldwide. EVI is one of several initiatives launched in 2010 under the Clean Energy Ministerial a high-level dialogue among energy ministers from the world’s major economies.
The EV technology has come far from the lead-acid batteries to lithium ion cells, which have higher capacity and provide longer travel range. This technological advancement accompanied by supporting infrastructure, such as charging stations, using solar or wind energy as the source of power, can indeed help solve the global issues of air pollution, oil dependence and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Various cities worldwide have came up with innovative policies to implement faster penetration of electric vehicles.
We recently shared the great news of how two cities have adopted electric public transport in Germany & London. Germany unveiled the first Zero emissions passenger train while London launched the first fleet of electric buses.
China plans for electric mobility for 2020 in 2 different phases.
In phase one (2011- 2015) Chinese-owned IP for core technologies like battery, motor and electric control will be created and developed. This will be the initial stage for developing pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars with a total production reaching 500 000 cars. The market volume should reach over 1 million by 2015 for all kind of hybrid cars.
Phase two (2016-2020) will put more emphasis on developing pure electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars. Their total (accumulated) market volume should reach 5 million cars. The key technologies will be broadly diffused in this period and then fuel consumption of new cars should be reduced to 4.5 liters/100km (Li 2010). By then, Chinese sales of fuel-efficient and new energy vehicles should be number one in the world (Yun 2011).
Singapore’s transport stats show that although, 65% of the fleet comprises of cars and 15% comprises of taxi, the kilometre millage of taxi is 125,000 km per year, which is the highest amongst all modes of road transport (LTA, Singapore, 2013). The government thus, has initiated a test bed program, by launching green taxi (EV taxis) in 2011. Moreover it also has ambition to introduce electric bus fleet and plans to achieve zero emission bus transit in the city by 2050.
In 2013, India launched the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, as a strategy document to attain the targets of National Mission on Electric Mobility for addressing the concerns of energy security, climate change and pollution issues in the country.  Thus electric vehicles are the next generation vehicles and sustainable solution to curb air pollution.
And with all leading automobile companies introducing electric cars to their fleet the picture looks positive! Not only are the design and look at par, the technology is also far improved. From Hyudai Ioniq to Nissan Leaf to Volkswagen E-Golf many new models are being introduced across segments. Tesla of course needs no introduction. Now dear reader, if you are considering getting a new car, do think about picking an electric one.
Recently, The White House announced plans of setting up electric charging stations covering atleast 35 states.
There are more than 16,000 charging stations around the United States, but outnumbered by gasoline stations. The proposed plan is to create a 25,000 mile (40,000 km) recharging network for electric cars that it hopes will encourage drivers to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles. The Department of Transportation will designate 48 official electric vehicle routes on highways that cover 35 of the 50 states.
The future is bright & electric 🙂
* This article does not represent mentioned members viewpoints.

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