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Air quality: Real-time emissions fairer to fleets

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By Matthew Pencharz, lead on Air Car project for Tantalum Corporation

After defeat in three legal cases the Government published its latest air quality plan to address levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in July. 

We know that the action necessary to reduce NO2 levels will come at a cost, with the Government’s central scenario estimating it at around £2 billion. This will fall hardest on diesel drivers. 

The air quality plan mandates 29 local authorities, where NO2 levels are expected to stay stubbornly high, to prepare plans by next March to bring down those levels as quickly as possible. 

The Government’s own modelling shows quite clearly that this is through introducing Clean Air Zones (CAZs), which would levy a fee on older, more polluting vehicles.

However, mindful of the financial impact, the Government is asking local authorities only to implement charging CAZs if there is no other route to getting NO2 levels down. 

So with the Government currently failing to give political cover and even much financial assistance to hard-pressed local authorities there is a danger that the action necessary to improve air quality is not taken, leaving our towns and cities smothered in pollution. 

But what if there were a cheap, fair and smart way to deliver charging CAZs? A way to reduce both the compliance and enforcement cost, and give power to drivers to reduce the charge paid while incentivising better and safer driving?

Tantalum developed technology a few years ago to estimate in real-time the fuel usage, and therefore carbon emissions, of a vehicle by using a device connected to a vehicle’s on-board computer. 

In receipt of a recent grant from Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Tantalum is using this technology to develop real-time NOx emissions estimations.

Working with Imperial College, the technology will be able to deliver – in less than a year – a scheme to enforce CAZs where drivers would pay on the actual environmental impact of a journey based on the amount of NOx and CO2 produced. 

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