Equity implications of electric vehicles: A systematic review on the spatial distribution of emissions, air pollution and health impacts

Anjali Sharma, Jinyu Shiwang, Anna Lee, Wei Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scaling up electric vehicles (EVs) provides an avenue to mitigate both carbon emissions and air pollution from road transport. The benefits of EV adoption for climate, air quality, and health have been widely documented. Yet, evidence on the distribution of these impacts has not been systematically reviewed, despite its central importance to ensure a just and equitable transition. Here, we perform a systematic review of recent EV studies that have examined the spatial distribution of the emissions, air pollution, and health impacts, as an important aspect of the equity implications. Using the Context-Interventions-Mechanisms-Outcome framework with a two-step search strategy, we narrowed down to 47 papers that met our inclusion criteria for detailed review and synthesis. We identified two key factors that have been found to influence spatial distributions. First, the cross-sectoral linkages may result in unintended impacts elsewhere. For instance, the generation of electricity to charge EVs, and the production of batteries and other materials to manufacture EVs could increase the emissions and pollution in locations other than where EVs are adopted. Second, since air pollution and health are local issues, additional location-specific factors may play a role in determining the spatial distribution, such as the wind transport of pollution, and the size and vulnerability of the exposed populations. Based on our synthesis of existing evidence, we highlight two important areas for further research: (1) fine-scale pollution and health impact assessment to better characterize exposure and health disparities across regions and population groups; and (2) a systematic representation of the EV value chain that captures the linkages between the transport, power and manufacturing sectors as well as the regionally-varying activities and impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number053001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Keywords

  • air pollution
  • climate mitigation
  • distributional impacts
  • electric vehicles
  • health impacts
  • just transition

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