Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining market share globally but they still make up only a tiny fraction of the market. Electrically powered airplanes are further from widespread use. Environmentalists and policy makers want to accelerate that adoption in hopes of reducing air pollution and fighting climate change.

For all of its human casualties and economic damage, the COVID-19 pandemic is providing some hard data on what happens to the air when people stop operating jet-fuel-powered planes and gasoline-powered cars.

Jennifer Kaiser, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, studied NASA satellite data (https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4810) showing emissions around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int’l Airport, the busiest in the world. And the results from the pandemic lockdowns were shocking .

“People are looking at COVID-19 impacts and seeing better air quality with less traffic,” Kaiser says.

Lordstown Motors, an electric pickup startup, had to delay launch plans for its first vehicle because of the pandemic, but CEO Steve Burns says EV producers are inspired by what they’re seeing in the environment.

“The air quality satellite images that are showing the results of having less tailpipe emissions are staggering,” Burns says. “Anyone that ever doubted that our air quality could be cleaned up dramatically by eliminating tailpipe emissions should now be cheering for the advent of vehicle electrification.”