Damaging levels of pollution will still be released into the atmosphere even if electric cars become widespread, a Government report has warned.
Brake, tyre and road surface wear all contribute to dangerous emissions – regardless of the type of vehicle used.
Plastic debris created from this wear and tear also contributes as much as 28 per cent of the total microplastics added to the ocean worldwide.
The Air Quality Expert Group’s Non-Exhaust Emissions from Road Traffic report said that the best way to reduce emissions is to lower the overall volume of traffic.
Other green ideas detailed in the report include lowering the motorway speed limits and creating emissions limits for brake pads and tyres.
The report notes that as exhaust pollutants have decreased thanks to regulations set by the EU, the proportion of non-exhaust emissions has increased.
It adds: ‘Non-exhaust particles from the UK road traffic fleet should be considered as potentially having a greater public health impact than the exhaust particles.’
Current estimates say that exposure to particulate air pollution contributes to around 29,000 deaths across the country every year.
Vehicles add particulates to the air by wearing down tyres, brakes and road surfaces.
Particulates added to the air from non-exhaust emissions include PM10, which are less than 10 micrometres in size, and PM2.5, which are less than 2.5 micrometres across.
Because of their tiny size, they can penetrate deep into the lungs and throat, causing health issues.
The rubber on tyres also adds to microplastic pollution as particles remain on the road until they are washed away by rainwater.
While the report, commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), does acknowledge electric cars can produce less emissions, it disagrees with the phrase ‘zero emission vehicle’.