Billions of dollars in health costs could be saved if drivers in the wider Sydney region switched to electric cars, a new report issued by the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) has shown.
Health costs of transport-related illness account for as much as $3 billion in the Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong area alone each year, according to the “Cleaner and Safer Roads for NSW” report, adding up to a $3,200 saving per vehicle if the switch was made to electric.
The report, which has been co-authored by the EVC and Asthma Australia with assistance from Doctors for the Environment Australia, also recommends that with transport-related illnesses such as lung and respiratory disease resulting in 60 per cent more deaths than road accidents, these should be added to the NSW road toll.
Approximately 650 people die in NSW each year from transport emissions-related illness, according to data from the Department of Environment and Conservation, and if these numbers were included in road toll numbers, funding to reduce those deaths could be better directed, says Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari.
“We’ve seen a lot of graphic road safety campaigns, but the deadliest part of a vehicle is actually its exhaust pipe,” said Jafari in a note by email.
“There are many good reasons for New South Wales to get behind a rapid transition to electric vehicles, but the most underrated is our health and safety.
“These are not abstractions. They are very real costs that are felt in very real ways. We can pump better health and more money back into the state by phasing out exhaust pipes and phasing in zero-emission vehicles.”
The emissions from ICE vehicles causing disease and death include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOX) as well as particulate pollution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Electric vehicle adoption could entirely remove CO and NOX coming from vehicles, while VOCs and PM10 particulate matter could be halved.
The report states that the most harmful emissions, PM2.5 particulate matter, could be reduced by almost two-thirds.
The call echoes previous statements from Doctors for the Environment as previously reported by The Driven following the release of another damning report issued by the World Health Organisation last year showing that 1 in 10 children died from emissions-related illness.
Children are particularly at risk, says Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman.
“Vehicle pollution is particularly significant when it comes to children’s asthma. Kids living within 75 metres of a major road have a 29 per cent increased risk of lifetime asthma,” Goldman said in a note by email.
“We often see schools built on main roads to increase accessibility, increasing exposure to asthma risk factors.
“People with asthma suffer from air pollution more than others because their airways are particularly sensitive. Indeed, anyone with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, lung disease, or cardiovascular disease is more susceptible. Such people have more frequent and more serious symptoms when exposed to air pollution.”
In addition to recommendations to include emissions-related deaths in the road toll, the report also shows that if all cars on NSW roads were electric, as many as 273 deaths could be prevented each year.
In addition to the significant health costs associated with transport-related disease and illness, the report also noted the social cost of noise pollution from internal combustion engine vehicles.
While the silent operation of electric vehicles presents its own risks (see our report on new EU legislation regarding this), it is estimated that in NSW, the social cost of noise pollution accounts from some $1.4 billion.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.