Any health benefits from electrification are minor.
Emissions from road transport and fossil-fuel heating result in tens of thousands of premature deaths in the EU-28 each year. By reducing harmful emissions, electrification could realise annual health benefits in excess of €62 billion.
Road transport and fossil-fuel heating are major sources of air pollution and, because these sources are concentrated in the areas where people live and work, they have a disproportionality large impact on public health. The health consequences of air pollution are well-documented. Exposure results in reduced lung function, repository infections and aggravated asthma, and maternal exposure has been linked to numerous adverse effects on pregnancy and new-borns. Furthermore, because exposure is so widespread, the scale of the aggregate health impacts are staggering. The European Environment Agency estimates that NO2 emissions alone, 39% of which come from road transport, contribute to about 68,000 premature deaths a year in the EU-28, with around 682,000 years of life lost. Other pollutants that would also be alleviated by electrification, notably particulate matter, contribute to even larger negative health impacts.
A separate study into the health impacts of road transport emissions concluded that, assuming an additional year of life was worth around €70,000, the health costs associated with road transport pollution in the EU-28 in 2016 amounted to €62-80 billion. Given electrification’s potential to reduce harmful emissions from a large number of sectors, not limited to road transport, and the fact that electrification can reduce emissions from those sources to which people are directly exposed, it is reasonable to assume that these road transport estimates reflect the low end of the health benefits that could be achieved through extensive electrification.
European Environmental Agency, Air Quality in Europe — 2019 Report — EEA Report No 10/2019, 2019, 14, figs. 2.4, 10.1-10.2 https://doi.org/10.2800/822355.
CE Delft, “Health Impacts and Costs of Diesel Emissions in the EU,” 2018, 46, www.cedelft.eu.