Replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles has the potential to reduce temperatures in cities, according to new research out of Hunan University in China and Michigan State University in the US.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, says because electric cars produce just 20 per cent of the heat of conventional cars, the switch would help reduce the urban heat island effect and have follow-on benefits from a reduction in energy consumption by airconditioners locally, leading to lower levels of carbon dioxide emissions.

Using Beijing, China, as an example, the authors estimated replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles could reduce heat island intensity by nearly 1°C, with the subsequent reduction in airconditioning cutting daily CO2 emissions by 10,686 tonnes.

“It’s easy not to see the big picture on issues like electric cars and global warming, but when we look with a holistic approach, we find these unexpected connections,” said co-author Jianguo Li.

“Heat waves kill, and in terms of climate change, even one degree can make a difference.”

However, the electric vehicles’ benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions were countered by the expense and pollution from producing the vehicles, leading to debate on whether they are currently the best replacement for conventional vehicles.

Read the full report.