Electric vehicles used to measure air pollution

Scientists from the University of Leicester will be taking to the streets in electric vehicles (EVs) fitted with specialised air monitoring sensors, with the intention of measuring the extent of air pollution in city environments. The Air Quality Group at the University of Leicester has collaborated with Cenex, the UK’s First Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies, who specialise in bringing new low and zero emission vehicle technologies to the UK roads.

As part of the project, the University of Leicester has designed and installed special sensors into EVs 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.

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.”

A charging point for the Cenex branded Mercedes Smart EVs will be installed on the University’s campus as a pilot study. The objective is to encourage and facilitate future uptake of EVs by staff and students. Additional charging points will be installed on the University’s campus in the future. 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.”

Dr Roland Leigh added: “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. 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.”

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