Electric cars are not a miracle solution to pollution

Quebec and Canada are relying heavily on the electrification of transport to achieve their climate goals. However, if these vehicles emit less carbon dioxide than their internal combustion engine counterparts, they are not free from all air pollution, according to a comparative study just published by the French Agency for the Ecological Transition (ADEME).

In addition to carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) Gasoline or diesel vehicles produce particulate matter, which contributes in particular to the formation of urban smog and the ingestion of which can cause various serious illnesses in humans.

The tightening of environmental regulations in both North America and Europe in recent years has resulted in manufacturers installing increasingly efficient exhaust filters to remove the particulate matter produced by internal combustion engines. The result: More than half of the fine dust emissions from road vehicles no longer come from the exhaust pipe, but from the wear and tear of other elements – the brakes, the tires, the road – according to the “ADEME.

The “other” car pollution

In a report published in late April, the agency points out that “recent studies show no significant difference in total particulate emissions between long-range electric vehicles and current new thermal vehicles, which emit almost no particulate matter.

In Europe, ADEME warns, “non-tailpipe particulates emitted by braking systems, tires or roads have become largely predominant compared to the exhaust emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles equipped with a particulate filter. They would correspond to more than half of the particles generated by road traffic.”

This trend will increase and total particulate emissions will stop falling unless regulations are introduced for brake or tire particulate emissions, the French authority adds.

Regarding the impact EVs will have on this trend, she pointed out that since these vehicles are generally heavier and use wider tires, the emission reductions that lead to regenerative braking cannot be relied upon , which slows the vehicle engine instead of braking.

If electric vehicles promise to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from internal combustion engines, then particulate matter outside the tailpipe does not, ADEME concludes, and these will continue to impact human, soil and water health. “The long-term effects on ecosystems are poorly documented, and the accumulation of this pollution in the food chain raises questions. »

In France, for example, the Energy Transition Agency recommends that the government regulate braking systems and tires more strictly in order to reduce particulate matter emissions.

A weight problem

Advising people not to buy ever larger vehicles at home would be a first step in the right direction, says the organization Équiterre.

The example of the all-new GMC Hummer EV from General Motors is eloquent: This huge electric SUV weighs no less than 4110 kilos, almost four times the average weight of a petrol sedan (around 1100 kilos). The American manufacturer claims to have received 65,000 pre-orders for this juggernaut.

In its ads, GM presents its Hummer as a vehicle for nature-loving adventurers. “There is no point in associating this vehicle with nature,” laments Andréanne Brazeau, mobility analyst at Équiterre. “Such electric vehicles are neither energetically nor materially sober. Governments are banking on electrification to meet their climate targets, but they are forgetting to address vehicle weight and dimensions. »

Équiterre has been attacking car ads that the organization believes are misleading for several months. In these ads, we often take the shortcut that the larger a vehicle, the safer it is. “We particularly praise the safety of the people on board,” notes Mme Brazeau. The fact that SUVs are also heavier and require longer braking distances is of course never mentioned.

electric vehicles like [le GMC Hummer EV] are not sober, neither energetically nor materially. Governments are banking on electrification to meet their climate targets, but they are forgetting to address vehicle weight and dimensions.

To break this cycle, Équiterre intends to launch an ad campaign on Monday which it hopes will be “provocative” enough to get people to react. His motto: “No SUV for me,” reveals Andréanne Brazeau.

Équiterre hopes to raise public awareness of the criteria to consider when buying a vehicle. The organization also wants to consider the need to purchase a vehicle. “For people on the outskirts it may be better to have one than two, and in the city car sharing may be a better solution,” illustrates Mme Brazeau. Because at the end of the day, the best solution to solving the problem of car pollution is to reduce their number on the roads.

Your number. Then her weight. And their pollutant emissions in all their forms. According to studies, electrification alone will not be enough.

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