Advocates of BEVs tout the lack of local air pollution from operating BEVs, which is laudable. However, electrical power plants do produce pollution. To the degree that electrical power stations are located in the urban air shed, recharging the batteries of BEVs will generate local air pollution. For example, there are 89 oil-and gas-fired power plants in Los Angeles with a combined generating capacity of 10.4 Gigawatts, including 27 natural gas fired reciprocating engine generators and one diesel ICE.
- As a result of this local air pollution from power plants, the California Air Resources Board has determined that the Chevy Volt PHEV will generate more local pollution than the now-conventional gasoline HEV Prius, including 23 times more CO, more NMOG and more NOx:
(source: see this link)
As a result, the gasoline HEV Prius is certified by CARB as an SULEV (super Ultra low emitting vehicle), while the PHEV Volt is rated as the higher emitting ULEV (Ultra low emitting vehicle.) So plugging in an HEV generates more local air pollution than running that PHEV exclusively on gasoline (in addition to generating more GHGs).
A hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicle, on the other hand, would generate no local air pollution in operation (except for particulates from brake and tire wear that are produced by all motor vehicles.) and local air pollution would be minimal with distributed steam methane reformers (SMRs) and near-zero or zero for hydrogen made from nuclear or renewable energy sources.