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Sharing the burden of poor air quality for change

Liftshare.com founder and chief executive, Ali Clabburn, argues the need to share more of our road journeys as well as increasing uptake of low emission vehicles to combat traffic pollution

Increasing uptake of low emission vehicles will not be enough to combat traffic pollution alone – we need to reduce road use by sharing our journeys and commutes as well, writes Liftshare.com founder and chief executive, Ali Clabburn.

Liftshare.com founder and chief executive Ali Clabburn

Liftshare.com founder and chief executive Ali Clabburn

The growth of car sharing is an important success in the crusade for better air quality across the UK. Since 1998 we have helped drivers find and provide lifts to passengers for a petrol contribution, and while this helps them reduce their own running costs, there are clear environmental benefits for doing so too.

We’ve reached a point where Liftshare members are, through collaboration and goodwill, helping to save thousands of tonnes of CO2 by making better use of the space within cars currently on roads, instead of adding more vehicles to clogged streets. We understand however, that this is only part of the battle, as there are many other pollutants that adversely affect air quality.

The Air Quality Expert Group report, led by Professor Paul Monks of the University of Leicester, delves into Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) in the United Kingdom, and recognises a decrease in PM2.5 emissions from road transport exhausts from a high of 32.3k tonnes in 1995, to 12.4 in 2009, with a forecasted low of just 2k tonnes by 2020.

There are many reasons for this drop – car sharing being one – along with improved engine technology as well as alternatives to fossil fuels. However, the same report also addressed a 70% rise in PM2.5 emissions from the non-exhaust elements of road traffic over the same period. These emissions, some of which are unregulated, include challenges like tyre and brake wear as well as road abrasion. If re-suspension of dust from road is added then the problem may be larger still.

As noted by the report, the non-exhaust emissions of PM2.5 stem from road traffic. The introduction of electric vehicles, for example, would do nothing to mitigate this air quality issue. Therefore, it stands to reason that the best solution is to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads. The growth of Liftshare.com alone is responsible for taking more than 75,000 car journeys off the road each day, but there is room for growth.

There are an estimated 38 million empty car seats for each morning rush hour in the UK. This huge figure illustrates not just why car sharing is becoming increasingly popular, but the scope for improvement in reducing all types of vehicle-related pollution and improving air quality.

Following PwC’s bright estimation that the UK’s five key sharing sectors – one of which being car sharing – will be valued at £9 billion by 2025, it is clear that more people every day are coming around to the idea of sharing what they have for the good of our planet. When are you getting on board?

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