Electric Vehicles Emit More Pollutants Than Fossil Fuel-Burning Cars, Says Study

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A study from the University of Edinburgh shows that electric and hybrid vehicles emit as many, if not more, atmospheric toxins than fossil fuel-burning vehicles.

The study, conducted by Victor Timmers and Peter Achten at the University of Edinburgh, and published by the journal Atmospheric Environment, found that heavier electric vehicles produce as many pollutants as their lighter weight conventional vehicles.

Electric vehicles tend to produce more pollutants from tire and brake wear, due in large part to their batteries, as well as the other parts needed to propel them, making them heavier.

These pollutants are emitted when electric vehicle tires and brakes deteriorate as they accelerate or slow down while driving. Timmers and Achten’s research suggests exhaust from traditional vehicles is only about one-third of the total emissions.

Further, the particulate matters are worse than fuel emissions, because they cause more health problems.

“We found that non-exhaust emissions, from brakes, tires and the road, are far larger than exhaust emissions in all modern cars,” Achten wrote in the study.

He continued: “These are more toxic than emissions from modern engines so they are likely to be key factors in the extra heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks seen when air pollution levels surge.”

The study does not include the production of energy needed for each vehicle, from coal or other fossil fuel sources. It only calculates the driving of the car.

The increase in pollutants are generated from factors like tire wear dust and brake pad dust, and tend to increase as the electric vehicles and hybrids get heavier — due in part because of the added weight of the cars’ lithium batteries.

Adversely, the study shows the popularity of electric vehicles are unlikely to have much of an effect on the level of pollutants. In fact, electric vehicles actually emit 90 percent of particulate emissions, while traditional vehicles push out 85 percent of particulate emissions in traffic.

These proportions will only increase as electric vehicles become more popular.

The study’s authors concluded that future policies should focus more on the weight of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The Edinburgh study comes on the heels of research conducted in March by the investment firm Devonshire Research Group, a company that specializes in valuing and devaluing tech firms, showing that Tesla electric vehicles are “not as sustainable as they may seem.”

The study also shows that Tesla’s CEO, techno-wonder Elon Musk, could expose the company to “serious brand risk and an unknown legal exposure.”

In fact, according to the research, everything about the Tesla — from its headlights, to its chassis, to the way it is produced — contributes to environmental degradation.

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