Air quality and health benefits from fleet electrification in China

Abstract

China has emerged as a leading electric vehicle (EV) market, accounting for approximately half of the global EV sales volume. We employed an atmospheric chemistry model to evaluate the air quality impacts from multiple scenarios by considering various EV penetration levels in China and assessed the avoided premature mortality attributed to fine particulate matter and ozone pollution. We find higher fleet electrification ratios can synergistically deliver greater air quality, climate and health benefits. For example, electrifying 27% of private vehicles and a larger proportion of certain commercial fleets can readily reduce the annual concentrations of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and summer concentrations of ozone by 2030. This scenario can reduce the number of annual premature deaths nationwide by 17,456 (95% confidence interval: 10,656–22,160), with the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta regions accounting for ~37% of the total number. The high concentration of health benefits in populous megacities implies that their municipal governments should promote more supportive local incentives. This study further reveals that fleet electrification in China could have more health benefits than net climate benefits in the next decade, which should be realized by policymakers to develop cost-effective strategies for EV development.

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Fig. 1: Changes in annual average PM2.5 concentration in Scenario EV compared with Scenario w/o EV.
Fig. 2: Changes in annual average NO2 concentration in Scenario EV compared with Scenario w/o EV.
Fig. 3: Changes in the monthly average 8 h maximum O3 concentration in Scenario EV compared with Scenario w/o EV.
Fig. 4: Avoided premature deaths and economic benefits in Scenario EV compared with Scenario w/o EV.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

Code availability

The code that supports the findings of this study is available from the corresponding author upon request.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant no. 2017YFC0212100) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 91544222 and 21625701) for supporting this research. S.Z. was supported by the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future while at Cornell University. X.H. is supported by the University of Michigan–Ford Alliance Project. K.M.Z. acknowledges his support from the National Science Foundation through grant no. 1605407.

Author information

X.L. and S.Z. contributed equally to this study. X.L., Y.W., S.Z. and J.H. conceived the research idea; X.L., S.W., J.X. and S.Z. prepared the emission inventory data; X.L. and J.X. conducted air quality modelling and health impact assessments; X.H. provided the individual travel pattern dataset and UF analytic method; X.L., Y.W. and S.Z. analysed the data; J.H., J.X. and S.W. provided valuable discussions; X.L., Y.W., K.M.Z. and S.Z. wrote the paper with contributions from all authors.

Correspondence to Ye Wu.

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Supplementary methods, Notes 1–3, tables, Figs. 1–15 and refs. 1–44.

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Liang, X., Zhang, S., Wu, Y. et al. Air quality and health benefits from fleet electrification in China. Nat Sustain 2, 962–971 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0398-8

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