Urban heat islands, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is where pollution from tons of people living together in a dense area, such as a major city, causes that area to be hotter than the surrounding area. While fossil fuel-burning cars aren’t the only cause, they’re one of the biggest, which is why it’s no surprise that researchers have found that using electric vehicles on a large enough scale can actually make cities cooler.
In case you didn’t think electric vehicles were cooler than their gas-guzzling counterparts, well, think again. They quite literally are, according to science. Electric car skeptics often point out that the vehicles are made using energy from the same fossil-fuel burning power plants as traditional cars, which….sort of defeats the purpose, right? Not entirely. A study published this week in Nature Scientific Reports finds that electric cars, despite being born of fossil fuels, have a big cooling effect when it comes to urban heat islands, those bubbles of hot air that eclipse cities on sweltering summer days. As many city dwellers know, downtown tends to run a bit hotter than the surrounding suburbs and countryside in the summertime. The two main contributors to the heat island effect, it turns out, are gas-powered vehicles and AC units. These two culprits compound one another—traffic creates heat, which causes uncomfortable residents to crank up their air conditioning, spewing more hot air outside.