Driving to Clean Air: New Report Reveals a Move to Zero-Emission Vehicles Would Save 4,490 Illinois Lives

American Lung Association releases report detailing benefits of transition to zero-emission passenger vehicles and electricity

A nationwide transition to clean, zero-emission passenger vehicles would have a dramatic impact on the air quality and health of Americans, according to a new report by the American Lung Association. The report, titled “Driving to Clean Air: Health Benefits of Zero-Emission Cars and Electricity,” highlights that a widespread transition to zero-emission passenger vehicles and electricity would result in nearly 4,500 fewer deaths and more than $49 billion in public health benefits across Illinois by 2050.

Illinois state legislators concluded the 2023 spring legislative session last month without taking major action to spur the state’s zero-emission car transition. As federal and state policymakers consider new vehicle standards, the Lung Association’s new “Driving to Clean Air” report illustrates the potential health benefits if all new passenger vehicles sold are zero-emission by 2035. The report also projects that the nation’s electric grid will be powered by clean, non-combustion renewable energy replacing fossil fuels by 2035.

Nationally, a widespread transition to electric passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs and light pickup trucks, would result in up to 89,300 fewer premature deaths and $978 billion in health benefits from 2020 to 2050. Here in Illinois, the transition would generate $49.2 billion in public health benefits and result in up to:

  • 4,490 avoided deaths 
  • 113,000 avoided asthma attacks 
  • 549,000 avoided lost workdays 

Illinois has taken some important steps toward a cleaner transportation sector. The state has made moves to reduce the harms caused by transportation and electricity generation. But, to further support clean air and healthier communities, Illinois should join the growing list of states to enact zero-emission technology standards for light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. This program has the strong support of the American Lung Association as a key air pollution control measure.  It would also align with a recent proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would create stricter emissions standards for cars and make two-thirds of new passenger vehicles zero-emission by 2032.

“Although state legislators took steps to accelerate the transition of Chicago Transit Authority and other transit agency buses to zero emission last month, too many people across Illinois are still impacted by pollution caused by the transportation sector, including our children, grandparents and loved ones living with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer,” said Kristina Hamilton, Advocacy Director at the American Lung Association. “We urge Governor Pritzker and our state leaders to take stronger action today to invest in the transition to zero-emission vehicles, which will improve our air quality and health.”

The transportation sector is a leading source of air pollution and the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution that drives climate change and associated public health harms. According to the 2023 “State of the Air” report, approximately 120 million people in the U.S. live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Low-income communities and many communities of color too often bear disproportionate burdens from air pollution broadly, and transportation pollution, specifically.  

This new report that focuses on passenger vehicles stems from the more comprehensive March 2022 American Lung Association “Zeroing In On Healthy Air” report.

The technologies and systems are in place to make these benefits a reality if leaders act to implement policies and invest in the transition today. The American Lung Association is urging the EPA to finalize strong pollution limits for new cars that drive a nationwide transition to zero-emission vehicles and for states to use their authority to establish more health-protective vehicle standards.

Learn more and see the full report at Lung.org/EV.

For more information, contact:

Janye Killelea
312-940-7624
[email protected]

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