Report: Switch to electric vehicles will save lives, money

Mar. 30—The transition to electric vehicles and clean electricity production could generate an estimated $3.9 billion in public health benefits — and prevent 356 premature deaths — in New Hampshire by 2050, according to a new report from the American Lung Association.

The report released Wednesday, "Zeroing In on Healthy Air," points to the transportation sector as a leading cause of air pollution, which contributes to negative health impacts such as childhood asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Will Barrett, national senior director for clean air advocacy at the Lung Association and the report's author, said he hopes it will inform policymakers about the health and cost benefits of switching to zero-emission vehicles and power generation.

"What we would hope comes out of this is that it helps to tell the story of why certain policies might be so important at the local level, state level and even federal level as these discussions go on," he said.

Based on models from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, the report estimates that a nationwide transition to zero-emission vehicles and power generation would result in more than $1.2 trillion in cumulative health benefits from 2020 to 2050 and avoid 110,000 premature deaths.

For New Hampshire, the switch would produce an estimated $3.9 billion in public health benefits and avoid about 356 premature deaths, 5,860 asthma attacks and 32,800 lost work days, according to the Lung Association.

"There are a million different reasons why people would make the argument for getting to zero-emission vehicles, but really it's a public health benefit that is central to our work" at the Lung Association, Barrett said.

"What we hope to see is that it helps advance the conversation about why these big, bold goals are so important," he said.

The report comes as some say the push for electric vehicles has reached a tipping point.

Ads for new makes and models of EVs are suddenly everywhere, with all-electric versions of automotive icons such as the Ford F150 pickup and Mustang and Chevy Silverado coming soon. At the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual show earlier this month, electric vehicles figured prominently, and attendees sported yellow buttons reading: "Dealers are all-in on EVs."

After years of discussion, New Hampshire leaders are moving to adopt EV projects.

The state's Department of Environmental Services is reviewing 41 proposals to build EV charging stations across the state, a project funded out of a 2017 settlement with Volkswagen.

The projects will be reviewed and scored in coming weeks, and contracts will be presented to the Governor and Executive Council for review and approval this summer, according to Rebecca Ohler, administrator of the technical services bureau, air resources division, at DES.

New Hampshire lawmakers also are considering a bill to create a pilot program to purchase electric school buses, using VW settlement money.

The American Lung Association advocates a switch from diesel school buses to electric vehicles, calling on the federal government to invest $20 billion to help school districts make the transition.

Barrett said the exhaust from school buses is one of the largest sources of exposure to air pollution for children.

As states make these kinds of investments in zero-emission technology, residents will see the value for their own lives, Barrett said. "It can really help to make it real, make it seem less extravagant or out of reach," he said.

"In reality, these are simply vehicles to get us around, and they shouldn't be polluting our community at the same time," Barrett said.

The new Lung Association report also calls for a transition to clean electricity generation. Some of that shift is already under way.

The website for ISO New England shows that the regional power grid that New Hampshire relies on has shifted from oil and coal toward cleaner-burning natural gas, which represented 46% of the power generated in 2021. The region also relied on nuclear (23%), power imported from other regions (16%), renewables (10%) and hydro (6%) in 2021. Coal and oil account for less than 1%.

"The region is transitioning to large-scale clean and renewable energy," ISO-NE reports. It projects that solar and wind power, as well as battery storage technology, will be part of that transition.

The Lung Association urges moving away from burning fossil fuels altogether. "We know we need a system-wide approach, and in doing that we can generate a tremendous amount of public health benefits across the country," Barrett said.


The report and state fact sheets are available at