Just a few short weeks ago, a report that Los Angeles is home to some of the cleanest air of any major city in the world would have seemed nearly impossible. However, against all odds and amidst mandatory lockdowns and shelter in place orders due to the coronavirus, that exactly has happened. Yes, America’s notorious pollution capital has seen drastically improved outdoor air quality levels, as have other major cities around the world.
This means that April 22, 2020 will almost certainly be the “greenest” Earth Day in quite some time, or perhaps, ever. As we take a deep breath from thinking about the coronavirus pandemic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the fresh air that global communities have seen demonstrates the positive outcomes that result from a decrease in tailpipe emissions. Moreover, it serves as a reminder of the longer-term role that plug-in electric vehicles and smart charging play to ensure improved outdoor air quality becomes a permanent reality after COVID-19.
Coronavirus effects on pollution around the world
Highly urbanized areas around the world have seen drastic reductions in outdoor air pollution as stay-at-home orders have ramped up in response to COVID-19. In China, where lockdowns were put in place early in 2020, NASA measured decreases in nitrogen oxide of up to 30%, with residents reporting noticeably cleaner air. Similar AQI improvements are being reported in cities with notoriously high pollution levels in India, and satellite images of decreased air pollution across the U.S. are also popping up around the web. Given that transportation is the largest contributor to emissions globally (with energy production coming in second), it’s not surprising that these drastic improvements have been seen in a short time.
When global economies get back into gear, many cars and trucks will be back on the road again, as they should. This will inevitably increase the pollutants in the air due to emissions from gas vehicles. However, there could be a way to have our cake and eat it too, as an increasingly electrified transportation sector would allow for air pollution improvements to become closer to permanent, while also keeping the gears of the economy moving.
The current state of EVs
The automotive industry has experienced year-over-year EV gains, with over 1.4 million total sales in the U.S. to date. Globally, EVs are gaining momentum as well, with nearly 1.8 million sold in China in 2019 alone. Over 40 electric vehicle models are now on sale in the United States, with dozens more on the way in the coming years, including models in new segments such as pickup trucks.
As a corollary, charging infrastructure has surged as well. IEA reports over five million electric vehicle chargers were installed globally at the end of 2018, a tenfold increase in just five years, and major players like VW and Tesla are dedicating billions to developing infrastructure further.
However, it’s important to note that scaling charging globally asks a lot of power grids. As gas stations phase out, new electric cars will need to plug in somewhere. At Enel X Way, we actively take charging stations a step farther by developing smart charging infrastructure that creates a cleaner, more reliable, more sustainable grid for all. Our goal is to allow for smart charging to not only make driving an EV more affordable and convenient, but also to help the grid become more sustainable and reliable. To date, we have deployed over 80,000 EV charging stations globally, allowing for over 13 million charging sessions, while also deploying a virtual EV battery of over 55 megawatts of capacity with our grid-connected smart chargers.