Shifting U.S. auto sales to emissions-free vehicles would prevent 89,300 premature deaths and produce 2.2 million fewer asthma attacks by 2050, while reducing health care costs by US$978 billion and recovering 10.7 million days of lost work over a span of decades, the American Lung Association concludes in a recent analysis.
“Those wonderful things only happen if the U.S. sells only emissions-free passenger vehicles by 2035, even if some gas guzzlers stay on the road,” The Verge reports, noting that the average U.S. driver keeps a car for about 14 years and drives it 200,000 miles. In Canada, the federal government has mandated thresholds of 20% by 2026, 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2035 for the proportion of new auto sales that must be electric.
Manufacturers or importers that don’t meet the sales targets could face penalties that would be phased in under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, The Canadian Press reported late last year.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for EVs to make up two-thirds of light duty vehicle sales by 2032. But the health and environmental impacts of that change will depend in large part on how the electricity is produced.
“Things get more complicated when it comes to cleaning up power grids,” The Verge explains. “The Biden administration says it wants to achieve 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. But it has also taken steps that would keep fossil fuel-fired power plants online,” relying heavily on carbon capture and storage technology to get the carbon dioxide out of smokestacks.
But “while that would cut emissions causing climate change, it doesn’t eliminate all the other nasty stuff that coal and gas power plants pump out that can harm people’s health.”
The ALA estimates that some 120 million Americans live in places with unhealthy air quality. “Too many communities across the U.S. deal with high levels of dangerous pollution from nearby highways and other pollution hot spots,” making vehicle choice “an urgent health issue for millions of people in the U.S.,” CEO Harold Wimmer said in a release. “Fortunately, the goal of transitioning passenger vehicle sales to zero-emission, and the resulting health impacts, are within reach.”