CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WBOY) – With gas prices showing no sign of relief for drivers, electric cars have become a buzzing topic, but according to a study by the American Lung Association, the switch to electric cars could not only save West Virginian’s pockets but maybe even save some of their lives.

The American Lung Association’s Zero in on Health Air report gives an outlook on what would happen if America converted its transportation and had no emissions from transportation. The report seeks to educate people on the positive impacts of transitioning to zero-emissions cars, including health benefits, improved air quality and fewer negative impacts on climate change.

The effects of transportation emissions on climate change are often talked about, but the American Lung Association’s report also brought up how the negative impacts of poor air quality are impacting the health of West Virginians every day. According to the report, if the U.S. made the move to completely electric vehicles, West Virginia would see 898 avoided deaths, 16,100 avoided asthma attacks and 81,200 avoided lost workdays. West Virginia would also see $9.8 billion in public health benefits.

“If you’ve experienced coughing or wheezing, tightness of the chest, those are the kinds of symptoms that anyone can experience from breathing dirty air,” explained Paul Billings, Senior Vice President Advocacy for the American Lung Association, “and so if you’re behind a diesel truck or sitting at a bus stop or you get a whiff of powerful smoke, you can experience the beginnings  of the health effects that we’re seeing. For someone with a serious condition like asthma, you really get in trouble. You have to take more medication. You have to go to the doctor. You could really end up in the emergency room and sadly, thousands of people die every year from breathing dirty air.”

The report said that two West Virginia metro areas would be among the top 25 most benefitted areas in the country if the United States made the switch to electric. The Washington-Baltimore-Arlington metro would be the sixth most benefitted metro, and the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton metro would be 15th. Billings elaborated on how the study showed that lower income households are one of the groups that would benefit the most from less air pollution.

“We see that lower income people and people of color often live near major highways, freight hubs, areas that are less expensive because they’re adjacent to these big dirty sources of pollution,” Billings explained, “and we know there are health disparities in this country. People with lower income have less access to quality, affordable healthcare, good food, and air pollution is just an additional burden on those individuals.” 

Nationwide, the report estimated that 110,000 premature deaths would be avoided, and nearly $3 trillion would be saved in public health and climate benefits. But, Billings acknowledged that making the switch would not be easy in areas where a transition to electric vehicles is not a priority.

“In order to achieve this transition, we need to make sure that there is investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and that requires a commitment at the local, state, and federal level so that we can have infrastructure to allow this transition to occur,” Billings said.

The benefits laid out in the report are based on if all new passenger vehicles sold are zero-emission by 2035 and all new trucks and buses sold are zero-emission by 2040. The report projects that the nation’s electric grid will be powered by clean electricity by 2035.

Click here to view the full report.