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Electric vehicles to measure pollution in UK cities

University of Leicester scientists to drive electric vehicles fitted with air monitoring sensors to measure pollution in city environments

Scientists from the University of Leicester are to measure air pollution in UK cities using electric vehicles fitted with monitoring equipment, which are being launched today (July 4).

The Air Quality Group at the University of Leicester has collaborated with Cenex, described as the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies, which specialises in bringing new low and zero emission vehicle technologies to the UK roads.

Electric vehicles will be used by the University of Leicester to measure air pollution

Electric vehicles will be used by the University of Leicester to measure air pollution

As part of the project, the University has designed and installed special sensors into electric vehicles (EVs) that can measure pollutant concentrations. The information from these sensors will provide insight into the quality of the air people inhale in polluted urban areas, the scientists said.

Dr Roland Leigh from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University, 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.”

Dr Leigh said electric cars were “vital” in measuring the quality of air in urban environments as they do not add further emissions of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants, allowing more accurate reading of the gathered data.

He said: “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.”

A charging point for the Cenex-branded Mercedes Smart EV’s will be installed on the University’s campus as a pilot study with the aim of encouraging future uptake of EV’s by staff and students. Additional charging points will also be installed on the University’s campus in the future.

Tim Yates, deputy director of estates at the University of Leicester, said: “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.

“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 research has received funding from the Natural Environment Research Council’s Knowledge Exchange budget.

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