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Does an all-electric vehicle still cause air pollution?

Yes, electric vehicles cause emissions of particulate matter through wear and tear of tyres, brakes and road surface.

Traditional petrol and diesel vehicles cause emissions through combustion in the engine and through wear and tear on the tyres, brakes and road surface. Due to the absence of the combustion engine, an electric vehicle has no exhaust. In that respect electric vehicles have an advantage over cars with diesel, petrol, LPG or CNG engines. Emissions of NOx, CO and volatile organic compounds no longer occur in electric vehicles.

Emissions of particulate matter as a result of wear and tear also occur in electric vehicles, however.

Due to increasingly stringent European emission standards (known as the EURO standards) and quality requirements for fuels, the exhaust emission of particulate matter from vehicles with combustion engines has decreased. As a result, the proportion of wear and tear emissions has increased and even become the dominant form. Total particulate emissions are thus in the same order of magnitude as for electric vehicles with wear emissions only.

Electric vehicles generally have a higher weight due to the heavy battery, so higher wear emissions are expected. On the other hand, the possibility of regenerative braking reduces wear. These effects cancel each other out; the exact net effect depends on the type of car and tyres, as well as driving behaviour.

The emission of particulates is only one of the environmental aspects on which a car can be judged. Commissioned by the Flemish Government, an eco-score has been developed that combines the impact of greenhouse gases, air pollutants and noise production in one indicator. The indicator can be consulted on

Source: EEA; Transport non-exhaust PM-emissions; 2021