The problem of noise in urban areas has received increasing attention in recent years. This is largely contributed by transportation, which is dominated by internal combustion vehicles. In the largest Polish agglomerations, living next to a street and moving around on is not pleasant, and the constant noise load has a negative impact on the health of residents. Electric vehicles are the hope not only to improve air quality in cities, but also to reduce noise emissions.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) experts, noise is the second most important cause of environmental health problems, after air pollution. The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates that up to 20% of our continent's population, or more than 100 million people, are exposed to long-term levels of noise that are harmful to health. Negative health effects of noise include disorders of sleep, circulation and metabolism, and cognitive function in children. The agency's projections indicate that the number of people exposed to noise is unlikely to decrease significantly in the future, due to urban development and increased demand for mobility. The European Union's measures to reduce the negative effects of noise include regulations and recommendations leading to: the use of low-noise bitumic pavements on roads, the use of low-noise tires on public transport vehicles, the promotion of walking or cycling, or the wide spread of infrastructure for electric vehicles. It is also worth noting that single track vehicles are also equipped with electric drives, which is important for the growth of electromobility in cities. As EEA expert Eulalia Peris points out, reducing the number of people exposed to harmful noise levels is best achieved through a combination of measures, including technological improvements, better urban planning and infrastructure, and changes in the attitudes of EU citizens.

So far, Poles are far more prone to choosing gasoline cars (71 percent of all cars purchased in 2019, according to the Polish Automobile Industry Association) or diesels (20 percent of domestic buyers) than eco-friendly vehicles (hybrid or electric - 9 percent in total). On the other hand, according to a survey conducted for the Polish Alternative Fuels Association (PSPA), as many as 29 percent of Poles declare willingness to buy an electric car. Still, it's hard to overcome the fears that scare away many potential users. These are mainly the high price and the scarcity of easily accessible and efficient charging stations.

EU policies and regulations should be an important incentive. The European Green Deal, a set of European Commission policy initiatives with the overarching goal of achieving climate neutrality on our continent by 2050, proposes that electric vehicle users in the EU will have access to 1 million charging points in 2025 and 3 million in 2030. The "Fit for 55" legislative package, which aims to slash net greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, includes curbing the registration of new combustion vehicles until their are completely phased out by 2035. EU legislation is thus moving decisively in the direction of making EVs more accessible first, and within a decade, the only option for those thinking of buying a new car.

Therefore, there are challenges and tasks ahead of us, both in the area of the necessary infrastructure and education of consumers, who are, fortunately, increasingly pro-ecological. - We need to constantly inform about the advantages of electric vehicles, of which zero-emission, low operating costs and the possibility of using batteries as energy storage come to the fore. In terms of environmental and social benefits, it is also worth noting that electric vehicles not only do not emit exhaust fumes, but also generate less noise. In cities where public transport generates a large share of noise nuisance, electrification of bus fleets is a highly desirable measure, and what is more, it may be indeed completed in the coming years - Agata Śmieja, president of the Clean Air Foundation, points out.

Electromobility in Poland is developing faster in the public transport segment than in the passenger car sector. According to the "Electromobility Counter", at the end of May this year, the electric bus fleet in Poland had grown to 526 vehicles. From January to May 2021 alone, the electric bus fleet grew by 94 zero-emission vehicles. Compared to the same period in 2020, when 31 such buses were registered, this represents a 203% year-on-year increase. The development can be further accelerated thanks to the "Green Public Transport" programme, under which the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (NFOŚiGW) offers funding for the purchase of electric buses, hydrogen buses and trolleybuses and for the development of battery charging or hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. The budget of the just announced competition is PLN 1.2 billion. The "Green Public Transport" priority programme supports the development of zero-emission public transport in Poland. It aims to reduce the use of emission energy and fuels in public transport, and to develop green inclusive mobility. The new call for applications under the Green Public Transport programme has been aligned with the terms of the National Reconstruction Plan, which was adopted by the Cabinet. In addition to reducing air pollution through the development of zero-emission public transport, the programme aims to tackle transport exclusion, particularly in regions and cities coping with structural challenges.

The passenger cars on our roads may soon become less harmful as well. The Fund has launched a programme to subsidize the purchase or lease of electric vehicles called "My EV". Its budget is PLN 500 million and the call for grant applications has just started.

- The programme is aimed at all categories of audience. Starting July 12, individuals can apply for grants for the purchase of vehicles, and then - within a few weeks - such an opportunity will be given to entrepreneurs, local governments and other institutions. At the same time, lease subsidies will be launched. Regardless of the form of vehicle financing (purchase, lease, rental), the terms of support will be the same - the Deputy President of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management Artur Lorkowski has stressed.

Consumer education, financial incentives, and the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure are the puzzles that, if put in place, can significantly improve the quality of life in cities and towns with heavy traffic or dense development. The majority of our country's population should therefore be supportive of getting old, noisy and noxious vehicles off the roads.

The vehicles should be gradually replaced by cars that are safer for people and at the same time environmentally friendly. The absence of noise and fumes is our common interest and a chance for better health for each of us.


This material was published thanks to a grant from the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.
The Clean Air Foundation is solely responsible for its content.