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Published July 23, 2021 | public
Journal Article

Switching to electric vehicles can lead to significant reductions of PM_(2.5) and NO₂ across China


Transportation contributes to around one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, while also causing severe air pollution. The conversion to electric vehicles (EVs) represents a major path to decarbonize the transport sector, with potentially significant co-benefits for human health. However, the scale of such co-benefits largely remains an empirical question and lacks observational evidence. The full lockdown in China during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic provides an unprecedented real-world experiment to evaluate emission reduction potentials of a large-scale transition to EVs. Here, we utilize ground and satellite observations of air quality during the full lockdown to constrain predictions of a comprehensive chemical transport model and find that the substantial traffic reductions are near-linearly linked to reductions of PM_(2.5) (particles with an aerodynamic diameter ≤2.5 μm) and NO₂. A further extrapolation of a full conversion to EVs shows a significant reduction of PM_(2.5) (30%–70%) and NO₂ (30%–80%) in most of China. Our findings provide fact-based evidence of potential environmental benefits generated by fully switching to EVs.

Additional Information

© 2021 Elsevier Inc. Received 21 August 2020, Revised 21 October 2020, Accepted 24 June 2021, Available online 23 July 2021.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 23, 2023