UK trials for cameras designed to identify polluting cars

One of several government-funded trials of ‘pollution cameras’ designed to measure air pollution from passing road vehicles began on London’s Marylebone Road this week (February 8), using technology developed by an ex-NASA scientist.

Marylebone Road map

A week-long trial of the EDAR system took place on Marylebone Road in London this week

The ‘emission detection and reporting device’ (EDAR) system – developed by former NASA scientist Stewart Hagar – passes laser beams through a vehicle’s exhaust in an effort to detect minute changes in light that can provide estimates on the pollutants being emitted from the exhaust.

Pollutants being measured include particulate matter PM2.5, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and the cameras could potentially be used in future to help identify cars emitting high levels of air pollution.

The trials are aimed at improving understanding of vehicle emissions in a real world environment and the findings will be compared with data from existing air pollution monitoring stations as a benchmark to “measure the effectiveness of the new technology”, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).

After the trial on pollution hot-spot Marylebone Road this week, the equipment will then be set up for trialling south of the River Thames in Blackheath from Monday (February 22-26) after a previous week-long trial last week on Tyburn Road in Birmingham.

Funding

Backed by £149,000 funding from the Department for Transport (DfT), the trials are reportedly the first of their kind in Europe, having been initially proposed by air pollution scientists at the University of Birmingham, University of Leeds and King’s College London as part of a DfT funding competition.

“It is early days for these cameras, but these first trials will help the development of air quality testing in the future.” – Transport Minister Andrew Jones

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “This newly-emerging technology is another example of British universities taking the lead in this area. We are pleased to support important work that improves our understanding of the impact that vehicle emissions have on air quality levels. It is early days for these cameras, but these first trials will help the development of air quality testing in the future.”

It is the first deployment in the UK of the EDAR system, which was developed by Mr Hagar’s USA-based company Hager Environmental & Atmospheric Technologies (HEAT).

ClientEarth

Reacting to the news, clean air lawyer at environmental NGO ClientEarth, Alan Andrews, said: “Car makers have failed to meet emissions limits that are designed to bring down pollution and protect our health.

“We need Clean Air Zones across the country to get rid of the toxic air in our towns and cities. If these cameras work, they will be a useful tool in holding car makers to account on emissions standards and help ensure that those Clean Air Zones deliver protection for human health.”

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