TECHNOLOGY THAT sucks toxic gas out of cars will be introduced early next year after fears that drivers and passengers are being exposed to dangerously high levels of pollution.
A British and Danish-based start-up has invented a device capable of removing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from inside vehicles to counter fears that sitting inside a car, even with the windows up, exposes people to more emissions than walking by the roadside.
The Airbubbl system fastens behind the driver’s headrest and traps NO2, which is primarily linked to dirty diesel engines, in a re-engineered nano-carbon filter. Dangerous particulates are removed and clean air is pumped out at head height.
Airlabs, which was founded in 2015 and is based in London and Copenhagen, said that in independent trials by Enviro Technology Services, which monitors air quality, their system had removed as much as 95 per cent of NO2 in cars. It found that in-car ventilation systems affected the technology’s performance, with higher air-conditioning settings introducing large amounts of NO2 and particulate matter (PM).
At low ventilation settings, however, the Airbubbl reduced concentrations of NO2 by 71 per cent and of PM by 86 per cent, keeping them below World Health Organisation levels. With the ventilation turned off the Airbubbl was “most effective at removing NO2 from inside the cabin”, removing 67 per cent within three minutes and more than 95 per cent within ten minutes.
Airlabs said it was in advanced talks with several vehicle manufacturers with a view to integrating technology similar to Airbubbl – which costs £295, or not much more than a dash cam – into cars.
The move comes after King’s College London found that drivers were exposed to nine times more pollution than cyclists on the same route, after gases sucked through air-conditioning systems became trapped in cars. Professor Sir David King, the government’s former chief scientific adviser, warned last year that travelling in the back of a car exposed children to higher levels of pollution than cycling or walking to school. He said that even motorists with cleaner cars were at risk because of the high levels of emissions from other vehicles, adding: “Cars have a constant through-flow of air, even with all the windows shut.”
Duncan Mounsor, managing director at Enviro, said he was “naturally sceptical about the claims of many air-cleaning devices” but said that the trial showed that the Airbubbl device worked.
Sophie Power, Airlabs chief executive, said: “Air pollution affects the health of millions of people worldwide and is a big worry for many parents. We have developed the Airbubbl because there is currently no way to effectively remove NO2 inside your car and protect your children.”
This article first appeared in The Times