Today, scientists from the University of Leicester are driving the streets in electric vehicles (EV’s) fitted with specialized air monitoring sensors, with the intention of measuring the extent of air pollution in city environments.
Where do electric vehicles get their electricity? From fossil-fuels that create pollution, using resources less efficiently than gasoline-powered engines. Like with the head of the American EPA flying all over the country during Earth Week, the irony is not lost on the group, who instead weighed the issues and unsurprisingly decided what they wanted to do was going to bring more benefit than harm.
Cenex, the UK’s First Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies, specializes in bringing new low and zero emission vehicle technologies to UK roads and designed and installed special sensors into EV’s that can measure pollutant concentrations around the city. The information from these sensors will provide insight into the quality of the air we inhale in polluted urban areas.
A charging point for the Cenex branded Mercedes Smart EV’s will be installed on the University’s campus as a pilot study. The objective is to encourage and facilitate future uptake of EV’s by staff and students. Additional charging points will be installed on the University’s campus in the future.
Dr. Roland Leigh from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, who is leading the project, said: “Electric vehicles are part of the solution to urban air quality issues. A mobile air quality monitoring platform, such as a specially designed electric car, is highly valuable to the scientific study of urban air quality.
“By monitoring air quality as a seamless part of our daily transport system, we are providing a cost-effective way to help inform future policy and operational systems.”
Tim Yates, Deputy Director of Estates in the Estates and Facilities Management Division at the University of Leicester, said: “The installation of these charging points will go a long way in encouraging the purchase and wider use of electric vehicles. When someone wants to charge their private vehicle they will be issued with a card and PIN number enabling them to access the charging point on Campus and pay for the electricity used.
“These points will be the first of several across the University campus and as the take-up of electric vehicles increases, so the demand for charging points will also increase. The wider availability of charging points means more people will consider buying an electric vehicle.
“The University already uses six electric vehicles in its business fleet and we are looking to expand this over the next year or two as the pressure to reduce carbon emissions increases along with the need to seek savings in fleet fuel costs.”
“Zero emission vehicles such as electric cars are vital in measuring the quality of air in urban environments, as they do not add further emissions of nitrogen dioxide and other key pollutants, which will allow for a more accurate reading of gathered data,” added Dr Roland Leigh. “It is important that we establish how polluted our cities are based on current transportation methods and develop new ways in which we can travel to enable more sustainable cities in the future.”
Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex said, “Cenex is excited to be working with the University of Leicester on this particular project, urban air quality continues to remain high on the political agenda and a major public health concern. In order to help bridge the gap between road users and the uptake of EV’s, there needs to be a greater understanding of the environmental and economic advantages zero emission vehicles can bring. We have no doubt the results of this project will add to the public understanding of air pollution and further encourage the adoption of zero emissions vehicles.”
The research has received funding from the Natural Environment Research Council’s Knowledge Exchange budget.
The electric cars will be launched on Friday 4 July and will be driven around Leicester. They will be measuring air quality during everyday work for the project team including the installation and maintenance of the static air quality monitoring network.
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