US urban air quality improves as lockdown empties highways, to give a glimpse of clean EV future


According to preliminary findings by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labs, U.S. air quality has improved since the coronavirus crisis emptied the roads of traffic, giving the country a futuristic glimpse of the clearer skies that could come with an electric vehicle fleet.

Using satellites, airplanes and ground monitors, NOAA researchers say they have observed a 25% to 30% reduction in smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions along with big cuts in volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gases in both the heavily populated U.S. Northeast and in Colorado’s urban cluster.

The so-called COVID Air Quality Study, which focuses on those two disparate regions of the country, “offers a glimpse into a potential future of urban air quality, due to the ongoing electrification of the U.S. transportation fleet,” NOAA said.

“We can learn lessons from this shutdown,” said Xinrong Ren, a researcher at the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory in Maryland, who added he expected urban areas of the United States would see similar improvements in air quality if half the U.S. car fleet was electrified and more people continued to work from home.