LA deaths increase in an all-EV future — study

By David Ferris | 06/10/2024 06:41 AM EDT

The city’s unique airflow and geography mean particulate pollution would spike in some areas.

Traffic on a Los Angeles-area freeway during evening rush hour on April 12, 2023.

Traffic on a Los Angeles-area freeway during evening rush hour last year. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

A large number of electric vehicles could worsen air quality in historically disadvantaged parts of Los Angeles, even though such broad adoption would have the opposite effect in other large U.S. cities, according to a new study.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, examined how local air quality would change if the country’s most populous cities — New York, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles — adopted large numbers of EVs by 2035.

The increase in EVs would improve air quality overall in all four cities. The air concentration of major lung irritants like nitrogen oxides and ozone would drop substantially, preventing hundreds of premature deaths every month and saving millions of dollars in health care costs each day, according to the study. The results were touted in a press release last week from the University of Houston, whose researchers contributed to the paper.


But some communities in the greater LA area would find themselves in a strange scenario where the uptick in EVs could increase some types of fine particulate matter, also called PM2.5. In those areas, LA’s unique airflow and geography would create a perfect storm in part because of when combined with the heaviness of EVs, which release more particulates from brakes and tires than gasoline-powered cars.