Cape Times

Electric cars lower CO2 emissions in US


THE booming use of electric vehicles in parts of California is reducing CO2 emissions in those areas, a study showed yesterday, bolstering a key pillar of the state’s drive towards net zero.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, say a network of sensors set up around the San Francisco Bay Area – where Teslas and other EVs are a common sight – has logged a small but steady drop in the volume of planet-warming carbon dioxide being pumped out every year.

“We show from atmospheri­c measuremen­ts that adoption of electric vehicles is working, it’s having the intended effect on CO2 emissions,” said chemistry professor Ronald Cohen, the study’s lead author.

Carbon dioxide is one of the main contributo­rs to global warming, the human-caused phenomenon of rising temperatur­es increasing­ly playing havoc with global weather patterns.

Scientists agree that nations have to rapidly shift away from burning fossil fuels to keep global temperatur­e rises to a manageable level and avoid the worst environmen­tal calamities.

More than two-thirds of CO2 emissions come from cities, but granular informatio­n about those emissions is scant – leaving policymake­rs guessing at how best to tamp them down.

Cohen’s network of dozens of sensors, which he started installing in 2012, has started to change that. It logged a 1.8% drop in emissions every year over a five-year period.

Cross-referencin­g this data with vehicle registrati­on informatio­n in the

Bay Area – where almost one in 20 vehicles is electric or hybrid – led Cohen and his team to conclude electrific­ation was having a measurable effect.

“The state of California has an ambition to be net zero in 2045 and that requires a decrease (in emissions) of a little more than 3.5% per year for the next 20 plus years,” Cohen told AFP.

“So 1.8% per year is half the rate that we need to decrease. But I think it’s an amazing down payment on our way to the right future.”

California’s ambitious plan for net zero – where CO2 production is vastly reduced and any remaining emissions are offset -– puts it ahead of the 2050 target of the US as a whole.

The state, which if it were a country would have the fifth-biggest economy in the world, has some of the strictest environmen­tal standards in the US, including a plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

Cohen, who plans to roll out his sensor network in Los Angeles, in Providence, Rhode Island and in the Scottish city of Glasgow, acknowledg­es that the Bay Area’s enthusiast­ic adoption of EVs in a state sympatheti­c to the cause makes it an atypical case study.

“This is what a good news story looks like in the place that’s most aggressive,” he said. “But it shows it’s possible. It shows both how we can make measuremen­ts that allow us to report on how cities are doing with their policies, and it shows us those policies can make changes that are observable at scale,” he said.

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