Is it true that electric cars emit as many particles as diesel and gasoline?

The particles in suspension are one of the biggest problems for our health, and are associated with different types of cancers, and serious breathing problems. According to the World Health Organization (see WHO report) the most harmful are the PM10, which have a diameter less than or equal to ten microns. Why are they so important particle filters, by problem that may result for the driver (see how to prevent failure of the particulate filter), given that a good part of these particles are generated in combustion engines of our cars. The interesting thing, surely, is what points to a study of Victor R. J. H. Timmers, University of Edinburgh (see study) that claims that electric cars generate as many particles as their counterparts with combustion engine. how Are electric cars more polluting than we imagined?

One of the critical more common to the electric car focuses on the fact that the electricity that recharges your batteries and feeds your engine, from sources of generation based on the combustion of fossil fuels, which can be more or less true according to the network generation in each country. And yet in all cases more beneficial, in environmental terms, the use of a vehicle of an internal combustion engine. But, in this case, the findings of this study do not focus their attention on that particular aspect.

The particles in suspension are very dangerous for one simple reason. These particles are dispersed in the air we breathe, our lungs up, and are able to penetrate into its interior and stay, increasing the risk of developing heart disease, lung diseases and lung cancer. But did you know that a good part of the emissions that we are generating the move in our cars is not due solely to the emissions of internal combustion engines?


What are the causes of particle production in road traffic?

The majority of the particulate emissions generated by a car in their displacement is not due to the combustion in the engine, but to other factors, such as the contact with the asphalt, and the wear and tear of tires and brakes.

That is precisely the crux of the matter. According to the report of the University of Edinburgh, 90% of PM particles10 that generates the traffic, and 85% of PM particles2,5 (less than or equal to a diameter of 2.5 microns), is due to factors beyond the control of the combustion in the engine. And what factors are those?

The particles in suspension is not only generated in the combustion, why do not you would like to live, for example, next to a work in which you are digging some land, or next to an open pit mine. In that 90% of the emissions of PM10 that cites this article should include the particles that are generated in the proper wear of the brakes, the wear of the tire, and even in the contact of the tread with the pavement, which wears down the surface of the sign and picks up particles equally dangerous when they remain suspended in the air, and enter our respiratory system.

The particles derived from the combustion are very hazardous, but not less than that arising from the wear of the tire or brakes, which contain metals of various kinds, such as zinc, lead, cadmium, or barium (see report of the European Union). That being said, we now understand why the electric cars they can’t get rid of these emissions of particles, regardless of whether the move without the need of combustion. But for what its emissions are not, even so, lower than those of their counterparts of the heat engine?

Point: the study that we mention in this article is not the only alert of the sources of particulate emissions unrelated to combustion. See this study from the European Commission.


The reason put forward by the report of the University of Edinburgh is not other than the fact that emissions by sources outside the combustion is very dependent on the mass of the vehicle, so that a heavier vehicle will emit more particles related to the tire, the brakes, or the contact with the asphalt. And electric cars, as a result of the need to use heavy batteries, which tend to make whole its mass exceeds that of a car with a combustion engine equivalent, issued more particles, which would ensure that their emissions are equiparasen with those of a diesel or a petrol.

The reasoning is interesting and dare I say essential, to get us to understand that emissions that are derived from lead us in a private car you not only have to do with what happens in the engine. But it is also true that it would be necessary to qualify some aspects, as also to remember that there are many other hazardous contaminants, derived from the road traffic, which go beyond of the particles.

Would have to see up to what point the brakes of an electric car generate so many particles arising from wear and tear as their counterparts in an internal combustion engine. Starting with the fact that electric cars, by their energy requirements, have systems of regeneration of energy more sophisticated. Without going any further, we have tested several electric that could be driven with a single pedal, the accelerator, with systems of regeneration of energy with so much retention that practically it is not necessary to touch the brake. That is one of the reasons why some hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, ensure to extend the life of your brakes well above what we would expect in a car without some sort of hybridization. But there is still more, should the particles in suspension deter us from continuing to bet for the electric car?


The particles are not the only problem of road traffic, nor the most worrisome

The emissions generated by the vehicles internal combustion not only have to do with the particles in suspension. The CO2 is very handy, especially now that there is so much talk of climate change and global warming, but on all other pollutants – such as NOx – that are causing so many problems in large cities such as Madrid or Paris.

Said, if the fleet was composed of a higher percentage of electric cars, we would live in a better world. I will not be the slightest doubt.

it Is important to develop braking systems, and tires, capable of reducing these emissions of particles, but also to continue betting for vehicles that will commit to the combustion, or, to the extent possible, to reduce their importance by using different hybrid systems. It is also important that we be concerned for getting the energy generation of a country, that fuels our homes, and powering the batteries of electric cars to come from renewable sources.

it Is essential that from the industry will continue to advocate for ways to make vehicles lighter, and to ensure that the batteries used by the electric improve its density, being capable of storing more energy in a battery pack more lightweight, and compact.

And all of those steps, and not one of them, will result in the ultimate goal that is to achieve that the mobility of the road traffic more sustainable, and less harmful to the environment, and of course, our health.