Energy drinks producer Red Bull has installed air filtration devices into a fleet of new Skoda Scalas to protect its drivers from pollution, as new analysis finds that in-car nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in central London can be four times the World Health Organisation (WHO) limit.
The air quality analysis, conducted by clean air technology specialist, Airlabs, found that the average concentration of NO2 that can be expected inside a car on the road in central London during working hours is 72 micrograms per cubic metre of air (µg/m3), which is 1.8 times the WHO recommended annual guideline value of 40 µg/m3.
The highest reading was almost four times the WHO limit, with an average concentration of 156 µg/m3 during working hours.
The analysis is based on 145,000 data points from 28 air monitoring devices across the Borough of London on weekdays between 9am and 5pm, over the 12 months from October 2018 – October 2019.
In-car levels of NO2 can be up to 70% higher than for pedestrians, due to pollutants being emitted from surrounding vehicle exhausts. These can pass straight through standard car air filters and lead to much higher concentrations in the cabin than on the pavement, further away from these sources.
According to Airlabs, the AirBubbl mitigates the impact of air pollution by removing up to 95% of harmful particulate matter and dangerous gases from a vehicle. By installing the devices, Airlabs state that Red Bull will reduce average NO2 concentration levels for their drivers in central London to 12.2 µg/m3, almost a quarter of the WHO limit.
Marc Ottolini, CEO of Airlabs, the company that completed the analysis, said: “People assume that their car protects them from the air pollution in our cities, but the opposite is true, as levels of NO2 have been found to be up to 70% higher in vehicles than outside.
“This comprehensive new analysis shows that using your car in central London poses serious health risks to drivers.
“Any business that regularly sends its drivers into urban areas across the UK has a clear responsibility to protect the health of its staff, so it’s inspiring to see a company the size of Red Bull taking this essential step to safeguard their employees.”
Health and wellbeing
David Oliver, procurement manager at Red Bull, said: “We’ve become really aware and concerned about the air pollution crisis which is affecting cities across the UK. Our Red Bull Musketeers spend a lot of time driving in cities and their health and wellbeing is vitally important to us, so installing an AirBubbl in all of our new cars is a positive step to look after our staff, as any responsible business should.
“The move is part of our commitment to make our fleet greener and reduce our contribution to air pollution. With the purchase of these 21 Skoda Scalas we’re moving away from diesel to cleaner low carbon and low NO2 petrol fuel as well as looking to move to a fully electric fleet in the next 5 years across all our 200-strong UK fleet.
“We’ll also be making the rest of the business aware of the best ways to help mitigate their exposure to air pollution when travelling to, and around, any UK city on business.”
Long-term exposure to NO2 has been directly linked to decreased lung function in school aged children, lung cancer, low birth weight of newborns and cardiovascular mortality, as well as increasing the risk of respiratory problems.
Read our Skoda Scala company car road test.