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Researchers at the University of Leicester are going to use electric cars fitted with air monitoring sensors to monitor air pollution levels in Leicester, UK.

The Air Quality Group at the University of Leicester has collaborated with Cenex, an independent not-for-profit consultancy specializing in bringing new low and zero emission vehicle technologies to the UK roads.

As part of the project, the University of Leicester has designed and installed special sensors into electric vehicles that can measure pollutant concentrations around the city. The information from these sensors will provide insight into the quality of the air in polluted urban areas.

Dr Roland Leigh from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, who is leading the project, said: “Electric vehicles are part of the solution to urban air quality issues. A mobile air quality monitoring platform, such as a specially designed electric car, is highly valuable to the scientific study of urban air quality. By monitoring air quality as a seamless part of our daily transport system, we are providing a cost-effective way to help inform future policy and operational systems.”

A charging point for the Cenex branded Mercedes Smart EV’s will be installed on the University’s campus as a pilot study. The objective is to encourage and facilitate future uptake of EV’s by staff and students. Additional charging points will be installed on the University’s campus in the future.

Tim Yates, Deputy Director of Estates in the Estates and Facilities Management Division at the University of Leicester, said: “The installation of these charging points will go a long way in encouraging the purchase and wider use of electric vehicles. When someone wants to charge their private vehicle they will be issued with a card and PIN number enabling them to access the charging point on Campus and pay for the electricity used.”

“Zero emission vehicles such as electric cars are vital in measuring the quality of air in urban environments, as they do not add further emissions of nitrogen dioxide and other key pollutants, which will allow for a more accurate reading of gathered data,” added Dr Roland Leigh. “It is important that we establish how polluted our cities are based on current transportation methods and develop new ways in which we can travel to enable more sustainable cities in the future.”

Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex said, “Cenex is excited to be working with the University of Leicester on this particular project, urban air quality continues to remain high on the political agenda and a major public health concern. In order to help bridge the gap between road users and the uptake of EV’s, there needs to be a greater understanding of the environmental and economic advantages zero emission vehicles can bring. We have no doubt the results of this project will add to the public understanding of air pollution and further encourage the adoption of zero emissions vehicles.”

The research has received funding from the Natural Environment Research Council’s Knowledge Exchange budget.

The electric cars will be launched on Friday 4 July and will be driven around Leicester. They will be measuring air quality during everyday work for the project team including the installation and maintenance of the static air quality monitoring network.

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    I agree, but how long will it take to kick off, at the end of the day their is still limited choice available, it says it all when the Nissan leaf has over 40% of the market. We need more car manufacturers, more charging points and more government backing fast. I found some interesting info at but I am still confused about what Boris Johnson is actually doing to meet his targets.

  • Well done to the University of Leicester, we need to workhard over the next decade to encourage the take up of cleaner vehicles and hopefully more zero emission cars, such as electric. It’s interesting that people on the streets or cyclists on busy streets in cities sometimes wear masks to stop them breathing in the pollution. However tests have shown that the pollution inside vehicles can be higher than that measured on the streets. The main difference seems to be that pollutants in cars, can build up as they are all contained inside the car. Find out more about the effects of pollution here . It will be interesting to see what the sales of these eco vehicles is like over the next 12 months, with the government promoting low emission cars we should see a big uplift in sales.