Electric cars are not a magic bullet for air pollution

Brake and tire wear from road transport vehicles is responsible for more fine particle emissions than exhaust fumes

The benefits of switching to electric vehicles to clean up our toxic air has been given much airtime, both at Cop26 and by the UK government in recent weeks (‘What if we just gave up cars?’: Cop26 leaders urged to dream big, 10 November). However, evidence shows that electric cars still emit PM2.5 particles, the most worrying form of air pollution for humans.

Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock
The threat posed by air pollution cannot be overstated – the air we breathe can have a catastrophic effect on our health, right from the moment we are born. More than a third of maternity units in England are in air pollution hotspots that fail to meet the World Health Organization’s 2005 air quality guidelines. This means that every two minutes, a baby is born into areas surrounded by toxic levels of air pollution. Children are then likely to grow up, learn and play in these areas of lethal pollution. If we’re going to stop babies being born into toxic air, more electric cars won’t cut it. We need fewer vehicles on our roads altogether, not just cleaner ones.


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