Electric Vehicles Just Got Cooler

By Maddie Stone on at

In case you didn't think electric vehicles were cooler than their petrol-guzzling counterparts, well, think again. They quite literally are, according to science.

Electric car sceptics often point out that the vehicles are made using energy from the same fossil-fuel burning power plants as traditional cars, which....sort of defeats the purpose, right? Not entirely. A study published this week in Nature Scientific Reports finds that electric cars, despite being born of fossil fuels, have a big cooling effect when it comes to urban heat islands, those bubbles of hot air that eclipse cities on sweltering summer days.

As many city dwellers know, downtown tends to run a bit hotter than the surrounding suburbs and countryside in the summertime. The two main contributors to the heat island effect, it turns out, are gas-powered vehicles and AC units. These two culprits compound one another—traffic creates heat, which causes uncomfortable residents to crank up their air conditioning, spewing more hot air outside.

In the present study, researchers at Michigan State University and Hunan University in China examined Beijing in the summer of 2012 and calculated that switching all vehicles from gas to electric could reduce heat island intensity by up to 1 degree Celsius. That may not sound like much, but the switch would've also reduced the electrical consumption of AC units by 14.4 kilowatt hours and slashed CO2 emissions by 11,779 tonnes per day.

So, while electric vehicles still have a ways to go before they can actually be considered carbon-free, if your city runs uncomfortably hot in the summer, gas-free cars may offer both a short-term fix and a stepping stone to a longer-term solution. [Michigan State University]

Read the full open access scientific paper at Nature Scientific Reports.

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