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Have you ever noticed that large cities seem to be hotter than the surrounding area? Fossil fuel-powered cars are part of the problem, but electric cars could be part of the solution.

The Heat Problem

Every year, temperatures continue to rise. The years between 2001 and 2010 were the hottest decade on record. In the summer, especially in large cities, the heat becomes unbearable and those with limited access to cool air can become sick and die. On top of the effect heat has on the human population, rising temperatures aren’t good for the environment, either.

The rising temperatures in major urban areas is a vicious cycle and leads to something called the urban heat island effect. The city becomes too hot during the day for the lower temperatures at night to cool off the city, keeping the area warmer. Over time, temperatures continue to rise, resulting in the increased use of electricity to cool buildings. An overabundance of heat could also potentially lead to the death and illness of those without access to air conditioners.

A study out of China has found that one of the answers to this problem may be electric cars.

How Electric Cars Could Help

The heat in cities comes from many sources, but an overwhelming majority is from vehicle and air conditioning use. Electric cars aren’t just technologically innovative or cool to drive, but they are also better for the environment.

Electric vehicles emit only 20 percent as much heat as vehicles powered by gasoline. Mass use of electric cars in large cities over time could decrease the overall temperature of a city by one degree Celsius, according to scientists. The study used the summer of 2012 in Beijing as the sample data.

What Happens if Temperatures Fall By One Degree

A one-degree drop may not sound like much, but the benefits are overwhelming. According to the study, a one-degree decrease in Beijing would result in a reduction of 14.4 million kilowatts of energy use. Carbon dioxide emissions would shrink by nearly 12,000 tons each day. The decrease in energy use would help decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, especially if electric cars replaced conventional vehicles on a global scale.

The use of electric cars and even a small temperature drop would have other benefits for people around the world:

  • Lower temperatures mean fewer deaths and illness caused by heat for those without easy access to air-conditioned buildings or vehicles.
  • Less use of air conditioners means less energy is consumed, leading to lower electric bills.
  • Reduced carbon dioxide emissions help the environment and lead to cleaner, more breathable air.
  • Over time, the lower temperatures in individual cities could lower temperatures on a global scale.

It is worth noting that the study mentioned that the common criticism of electric cars — the waste and pollution caused in the manufacturing of electric vehicles — might be outweighed by the benefits to the environment and the people where mass electric car use occurs.

Vehicle and air conditioner use are only two of the reasons for increasing temperatures in cities and would not solve all environmental issues facing the world today. The resulting reduction in temperature, use of air conditioning, and in non-renewable fossil fuels makes electric car use a compelling option in a long list of solutions to slow, halt, or reverse the impact from climate change.


How Electric Cars Can Cool a City

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