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Hidden Benefits Of Electric Cars — Even More “Environmentally Friendly” Than Previously Thought

In addition to the most obvious benefits of electric vehicle (EV) use — a diminished carbon footprint, less air pollution, etc — there are many other, more subtle, benefits as well. New research from Michigan State University recently uncovered some of these — to be precise, the research uncovered two previously “hidden” but notable benefits.

Of these, the most notable is the fact that EVs emit considerably less heat — a bit obvious I suppose, but most certainly an important finding regardless. What this means, is that the urban heat island effect can be reduced a great deal by the large-scale adoption of EVs (and phasing out of heat-spewing, gas-powered vehicles).

Nissan LEAF


Considering how hot some cities get during the summer (and how much hotter they will be getting in the future “thanks” to global warming), the application of this finding could go a long ways towards improving livability (as well as reducing cooling bills and energy use). Of course, getting everyone to give up gas-powered vehicles and switch to electrics is easier said than done — for now, anyways.

“It’s easy not to see the big picture on issues like electric cars and global warming, but when we look with a holistic approach, we find these unexpected connections,” stated study co-author Jianguo Liu, the holder of the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at Michigan State University, and the director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. “Heat waves kill, and in terms of climate change, even one degree can make a difference.”

A recent press release provides more:

The research was led by Professor Canbing Li of Hunan University in Changsha, China, who was a visiting scholar. Conventional vehicles and air conditioners are the two biggest contributors to the heat island intensity — the difference between urban temperatures and the cooler temperatures of rural areas. In that arena, electric vehicles are cooler — giving off only about 20% of the heat a gas vehicle emits.

The researchers used Beijing in summer of 2012 to calculate that switching vehicles from gas to electricity could reduce the heat island intensity by nearly 1 degree Celsius. That would have saved Beijing 14.4 million kilowatt hours and slashed carbon dioxide emissions by 11,779 tons per day, according to the paper “Hidden Benefits of Electric Vehicles for Addressing Climate Change.”

A note to make here — owing to uncertainty of the exact effects of aerosol pollution on heat island intensity, this potential factor wasn’t addressed in the research.

The new findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Image Credit: Nissan

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James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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