Urgent action must be taken to cut emissions from tyres and brakes, the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) has warned.
Non-exhaust emissions (NEE) are expected to rise from 7.4% today to 10% of all UK PM2.5 emissions by 2030, and the group of academics, who provides independent scientific advice on air quality to Defra, says the government should legislate to reduce NEE and not focus solely on lowering exhaust emissions.
The AQEG recommends as an ‘immediate priority’ that NEE are recognised as a source of ambient concentrations of particulate matter, especially as the demand rises for electric vehicles (EVs).
EVs are generally heavier than their petrol or diesel equivalent, which increases NEE. However, EVs use regenerative braking which does not rely on frictional wear of the brakes, lowering emissions.
There is currently no legislation on NEE but the government today (July 11) put pressure on carmakers to tackle the rising problem.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: ‘Emissions from car exhausts have been decreasing through the development of cleaner technologies and there is now a need for the car industry to find innovative ways to address the challenges of air pollution from other sources.’
The report argues the case for introducing an internationally recognised standard for measuring NEE, which it says would allow for a more accurate understanding of the threat it poses.
The National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory currently measures NEE based on data from the 1990s which has not evolved in time as vehicle designs and vehicle fleet composition have changed, in contrast to the regularly updated emissions factors used for exhaust emissions.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: ‘The automotive industry is committed to improving air quality and has already all but eliminated particulate matter from tailpipe emissions.
‘Brake, tyre and road wear is a recognised challenge as emissions from these sources are not easy to measure.
‘A United Nations global group, including industry experts and government, is working to better understand, and agree how to measure, these emissions.
‘Maintenance of the road surface, as well as further investment in new vehicle technologies, is essential to reducing these emissions, without compromising safety and we welcome further research in this area.’
The report was also welcomed by Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation who now said it was ‘critical’ the government commits to new legal limits for PM2.5 as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
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