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Smart answer to uni's air pollution challenge

Date: 12 August 2014   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

A fleet of electric vehicles is being used to measure air pollution as part of a project in Leicester.

Scientists from the University of Leicester have fitted sensors that can measure pollutant concentrations to six EVs from its business fleet to establish air quality in urban areas.

Leader of the project, Dr Roland Leigh of the university's department of physics and astronomy, said the Smart EVs had been employed for the task because they create no additional tailpipe emissions: "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."

The trial began on 4 July and will run for a minimum of four months with the possibility of more vehicles joining the scheme later on. The cars will measure air quality during everyday trips in the city, many of which are expected to involve the installation and monitoring of static air quality sensors as part of a wider project.

A spokesperson for Cenex, the low-carbon firm with which the university has paired up as part of the scheme, told BusinessCar that the results would be used to inform future air quality policies in the city, which hints at the possibility of a localised air quality-based taxation system in future.

The university is in the process of installing the first of several charging points on its campus to assist with the programme, which it hopes will increase the take-up and use of EVs away from the trial.

Tim Yates, deputy director of estates at the university, 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."

He added that the university planned to grow its fleet of EVs:
"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."

The results of the trial will be published at once it has been completed.