A transition to clean, zero-emission vehicles would have a dramatic impact on the air quality and health of Delaware residents, according to a report by the American Lung Association released Wednesday.
The “Zeroing in on Healthy Air” report said a widespread transition to vehicles powered by clean electricity would result in up to 462 avoided deaths and $5.1 billion in public health benefits in the First State. The Philadelphia-Reading-Camden metro area — which includes New Castle and Kent counties — was ranked fifth among the top 25 locales that would benefit the most from such a transition, behind only Los Angeles-Long Beach, New York City-Newark, Chicago-Naperville and San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland.
The assessment estimated that, along with the hundreds of avoided deaths, Delaware could circumvent 11,200 asthma attacks and 55,100 lost workdays by 2050 if all new passenger vehicles sold are zero-emission by 2035 and all new trucks and buses sold are zero-emission by 2040.
It also projected that the nation’s electric grid will be powered by clean, noncombustion electricity, not fossil fuels, by 2035.
Gov. John Carney recently announced that Delaware will join 13 other states in adopting California’s zero-emission vehicle regulations, which will facilitate a faster and easier transition to electric vehicles, said ALA chief mission officer Deborah Brown.
“When you look at it from a public health standpoint, the air is cleaner,” Ms. Brown said. “We would certainly see avoided deaths, avoided asthma attacks, avoided lost workdays. When you look at ozone and particle pollution, the things that we breathe in, you can see that there are serious health effects. If you’re breathing that in, and again, I go back to asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage, developmental and reproductive harm, ... we even know that particle pollution can cause lung cancer.
"So I think it’s really important for us to make sure that we’re addressing clean, healthy air.”
ZEV requirements mandate that a certain percentage of the vehicles delivered for sale in Delaware are zero-emission.
In addition, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, switching to an electric vehicle could save a household approximately $500-$1,000 on fuel costs per year. They also tend to have lower maintenance costs than gas-powered cars do, which will reduce the price of ownership, Ms. Brown added.
“If individuals are able to switch to electric vehicles, I think (it) is really important because it does help the environment,” she said.
Delaware leaders also recently announced that the state plans to use part of its infrastructure funds to switch its bus fleet to low- or no-emission vehicles.
Not only will the switch to such vehicles improve air quality in Delaware, it will also combat the impacts of climate change, Ms. Brown said.
“That really is important in Delaware because we face the impacts of climate change,” she said. “We’re seeing it with more frequent and heavier rainstorms. We have coastal flooding, wind damage and erosion of our beaches and dunes. So this is really an opportunity for us to take action, so that we can improve our economy, our health and our future.”