Environment

Electric vehicles could cut home air conditioner use

Electric vehicles could cut ho...
A study indicates electric vehicles could help make cities cooler (Photo: Shutterstock)
A study indicates electric vehicles could help make cities cooler (Photo: Shutterstock)
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A study indicates electric vehicles could help make cities cooler (Photo: Shutterstock)
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A study indicates electric vehicles could help make cities cooler (Photo: Shutterstock)

Those who question the environmental benefits of electric vehicles over their gas-guzzling brethren often point out that the electricity powering EVs usually comes from fossil fuel-burning power plants. But a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) and Hunan University in China has revealed some hidden benefits of EVs, regardless of where the electricity originates.

Most people will have witnessed the heat haze above a line of traffic stuck on a freeway in summer. These vehicles are contributing to the urban heat island effect. This in turn results in city dwellers cranking up the office and home air conditioning, which in turn further adds to the outdoor heat and sends electricity usage northwards.

The study, led by Professor Canbing Li, found that electric vehicles could help mitigate both of these related problems. With electric vehicles emitting only around 20 percent of the heat that a gasoline vehicle produces, swapping them with gas vehicles could significantly reduce the temperature in a city, thereby reducing air conditioner usage.

They calculated that in the summer of 2012, switching vehicles from gas to electricity could have reduced the urban heat island intensity by almost 1° C (2.8° F) in Beijing, which would have saved the city 14.4 million kWh of electricity from reduced air conditioner usage and cut CO2 emissions by 11,779 tons per day.

"It's easy not to see the big picture on issues like electric cars and global warming, but when we look with a holistic approach, we find these unexpected connections," said study co-author Jianguo "Jack" Liu, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at MSU. "Heat waves kill, and in terms of climate change, even one degree can make a difference."

However, the authors admit that not all factors that can influence the urban heat island effect were addressed in the study. For example, the impact of reduced aerosol pollution on heat island intensity was subject to conflicting reports.

The team's study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Michigan State University

22 comments
22 comments
Freyr Gunnar
> The study, led by Professor Canbing Li, found that electric vehicles could help mitigate both of these related problems.
In cities, because of traffic time lost to find a parking space, on average, a bicycle is as fast or even faster than a car.
Thus, a low-tech solution (gasp!) to the problem is simply to encourage/force people to stop driving, and ride bikes and/or use public transportation.
Michael Smith
--They calculated that in the summer of 2012, switching vehicles from gas to electricity could have reduced the urban heat island intensity by almost 1° C (2.8° F) in Beijing--
Really. Is anyone buying this...? Ok it's 96 F instead of 95 F, so I'm shutting off the AC.
I'm skeptical about big picture man influenced/caused, drastic climate change models. Could be contributing to a bigger problem long term...maybe, but this conclusion seems to be grasping at straws. I thought the take-a-way would be time spent in a car with the A/C on would mean less time air conditioning a large work or living space.
telocity
People like to bike for leisure, but not work. However with the advent of good electric bikes that should no longer be a issue. So if you created a system of public transport which worked with electric bicycles and had dedicated bike paths (which could be covered with solar panels) You would need far less space for parking lots,roads would be for work vehicles, and there would be huge savings in Energy. Dreams are nice aren't they?
Derek Howe
@ Freyr Gunnar - Ummm, yeah, I'll pass on your little utopia hell.
Michiel Mitchell
The fact that the electricity might come from a coal plant, is not detrimental at all, it's just not as beneficial as it could be.... It still beats the living crap out of anything a gas-guzzling internal combustion engine can muster, with regards to efficiencies... if you have to burn a fuel, much rather do in in a power-plant at upwards of 85% efficiencies, than to waste it out the tale-pipe of a gas-banger at 30% or less effectiveness... of course Big-Oil would much rather have you do the latter.
CaptD
Freyr - Not everyone can ride a bike to accomplish all the tasks they need to do during the work day, especially in poor weather and/or at night.
The Study points out the fact that shifting to eVehicles (which includes all forms of personal vehicles like eBikes, eMotorcycles, eScooter, eMobility Scooters and even eSkateboards) we will reduce the heat generated which in turn save air conditioning costs for the entire region.
Another "spinoff" of shifting to eVehicles is that once users start relating to using solar panels to recharge their own devices they will also become more energy efficient, which will then help reduct the load of the Grid for all, especially if everyone supports installing solar panels where ever practical.
drender
@Frer : Maybe there's a technological solution that doesn't inhibit personal liberty. Seems to me that this is a fantastic way to promote electric cars without getting mired in the AGW debate.
Steve Smith
What a crock of, ...... One degree Celsius isn't going alter people's air conditioning habits one iota.
Rann Xeroxx
This really, really sounds like junk science to me. The reason cities are heat islands is because of the blacktop and concrete, not because of cars or factories, etc.
I am personally pro-EV but don't base your argument on junk science like AGW is.
Lbrewer42
One whole degree difference? Wow! Surely that;s enough to make people turn down the AC - considering one degree difference. is not normally identifiable by people. Do we REALLY live in a day where people can tout such ridiculous data as propping up their argument?
Also China was quoted as part of the researchers. China is notoriously known for ignoring the environmental issues.
And just one more thing: google Game Over IPCC quietly admits defeat. The IPCC data over the last 15 years was compiled and - although they are the UN group who are THE authorities on global warming - PROVED there has been no AGW. So why are we still beating this dead horse? B/c the liberal agenda sees money and power in it. Can you imagine what would happen if all the people started suing for the emissions tests thay have had to pay for - just to name one area of legalized stealing AGW has lead to?
Don't flame - do the homework. The so called Climate Gate papers also proved it - yes, I DID read them.
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