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Less emissions, more electric buses for Hong Kong

Shenzhen-based BYD Auto Co. Ltd.'s electric buses have entered the US market. Photo: Xinhua

Shenzhen-based BYD Auto Co. Ltd.’s electric buses have entered the US market. Photo: Xinhua

Hong Kong has a large population and limited space, yet its traffic network is well established.

Buses are the second-most commonly used form of public transport, bested only by the MTR.

However, most buses use diesel fuel, which emits a large quantity of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides — adversely affecting air quality in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Air Pollutant Emission Inventory released by the Environmental Protection Department in 2013 showed navigation and road transport are the main sources of air pollutants, with road transport emitting 1,090 tonnes of respirable suspended particulates (RSP).

To improve air quality on the streets and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, diesel buses can be replaced with electric buses.

Shanghai and London strongly promote electric buses

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been adopted by many big cities around the world.

Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka and London have started to popularize EVs.

Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, has 3,050 buses that use new energy for public transport, and there is a plan to add 3,600 more electric buses to the city.

However, in Hong Kong, there were only 2,889 EVs for road use by the end of September.

While the number of total licensed vehicles in Hong Kong reached 681,000 in 2013, the ratio of EVs to traditional vehicles was less than 0.5 percent.

These statistics show that EVs are still not very popular in Hong Kong.

We are introducing electric vehicles to Hong Kong more slowly than the cities around us, as well as those in Europe and America.

London is also a heavily populated city, the citizens of which usually travel by bus.

There are 9,000 buses in London carrying 6.5 million people per day – a demand equal to that of Paris and New York City combined.

The London government has been promoting electric buses and is now conducting a five-year trial of electric double-decker buses.

Recently, the world’s first electric double-decker was unveiled to the public when President Xi Jinping visited Britain.

The British government has also placed an order for 51 electric buses, and it is expected that these orders will continue to increase as citizens embrace the idea of going green.

Transport for London (TfL) is purchasing EVs and hybrid buses with the aim of having 300 electric-only buses by 2020.

Other governments around the world are likewise promoting electric public transport and EVs, with different targets that aim to reduce emissions.

The National Development and Reform Commission in China said it aims to lower the operating costs of EVs by 2020 through financial subsidies and planned charging facilities, creating more incentives for consumers to purchase EVs.

Although Hong Kong has very good plans for developing electric public transport, there is still a need to keep up with other countries in terms of development.

The transport systems in Hong Kong and London are very similar.

Hong Kong can take London’s strategy as a reference and plans to bring in the benefits of EVs and help Hongkongers enjoy cleaner air and blue skies.

Electric buses are safe, with good endurance

Safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to public transport.

Thanks to technological advancement that has led to using an iron-phosphate battery as an energy source, electric buses are not only safe but also stable and environmentally friendly.

An iron-phosphate battery can handle extreme environmental conditions and will not act adversely if a collision occurs or in cases of burning, short circuit, needling, high temperature, compression or overcharging.

Such a battery is itself a green product, generating no pollution during its manufacturing process and, with a long battery life, lasting the entire life cycle of an EV.

Used iron-phosphate batteries can even be recycled.

Many people are concerned about the endurance of EVs.

Some also worry that using EVs for public transport will affect efficiency.

In fact, some single-decker buses need to charge for only four hours to run 250 kilometers, and there have been endurance breakthroughs in electric bus design.

The newly invented electric double-decker can run 300 km when it is fully charged.

Hong Kong Island is 50 km around, which means electric buses can travel around it five or six times once fully charged.

Air pollution has been a key issue in Hong Kong for some time.

The Health Environmental Index from the University of Hong Kong shows 2,616 people died earlier than normal last year because of air pollution.

Therefore, we have to tackle related problems and find the most effective ways to improve air quality.

Promoting EVs is not only a global and environmentally friendly trend, it can also improve the image of a city.

Introducing zero-emission electric buses is a direct and effective way to reduce air pollution at its source and pave the way for Hong Kong to be a zero-emission city.

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Volkswagen: The scandal explained

What is Volkswagen accused of?

It’s been dubbed the “diesel dupe”. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many VW cars being sold in America had devices in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results. The German car giant has since admitted cheating emissions tests in the US.

VW has had a major push to sell diesel cars in the US, backed by a huge marketing campaign trumpeting its cars’ low emissions. The EPA’s findings cover 482,000 cars in the US only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW brands Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide, including eight million in Europe, are fitted with the so-called “defeat device”.

The device sounds like a sophisticated piece of kit.

Full details of how it worked are sketchy, although the EPA has said that the engines had computer software that could sense test scenarios by monitoring speed, engine operation, air pressure and even the position of the steering wheel.

When the cars were operating under controlled laboratory conditions – which typically involve putting them on a stationary test rig – the device appears to have put the vehicle into a sort of safety mode in which the engine ran below normal power and performance. Once on the road, the engines switched out of this test mode.

The result? The engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.

What has been VW’s response?

“We’ve totally screwed up,” said VW America boss Michael Horn, while the group’s chief executive at the time, Martin Winterkorn, said his company had “broken the trust of our customers and the public”. Mr Winterkorn has now left the company as a direct result of the scandal and has been replaced by Matthias Mueller, the former boss of Porsche.

“My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group – by leaving no stone unturned,” Mr Mueller said on taking up his new post.

VW has also launched an internal inquiry.

With VW recalling almost 500,000 cars in the US alone, it has set aside €6.5bn (£4.7bn) to cover costs. The carmaker has said it will begin recalling cars in January.

But that’s unlikely to be the end of the financial impact. The EPA has the power to fine a company up to $37,500 for each vehicle that breaches standards – a maximum fine of about $18bn.

Legal action from consumers and shareholders may follow, and there is speculation that the US Justice Department will launch a criminal probe. Then, or course, there is the cost of fixing all the cars.

How widespread are VW’s problems?

What started in the US has spread to a growing number of countries. The UK, Italy, France, South Korea, Canada and, of course, Germany, are opening investigations. Throughout the world, politicians, regulators and environmental groups are questioning the legitimacy of VW’s emissions testing. France’s finance minister Michel Sapin said a “Europe-wide” probe was needed in order to “reassure” the public.

At this time, only cars in the US named by the EPA are being recalled, so owners elsewhere need take no action. However, with about 11 million VW diesel cars potentially affected – 2.8 million cars in Germany itself – further costly recalls and refits are likely. Half of the company’s sales in Europe – VW’s biggest market – are for diesel cars. No wonder the carmaker’s shares are down 30% since the scandal broke – with other carmakers also seeing big falls in their stock prices.

Will more heads roll?

It’s still unclear who knew what and when, although VW must have had a chain of management command that approved fitting cheating devices to its engines, so further departures are likely.

Christian Klingler, a management board member and head of sales and marketing is leaving the company, although VW said this was part of long-term planned structural changes and was not related to recent events.

In 2014, in the US, regulators raised concerns about VW emissions levels, but these were dismissed by the company as “technical issues” and “unexpected” real-world conditions. If executives and managers wilfully misled officials (or their own VW superiors) it’s difficult to see them surviving.

Are other carmakers implicated?

That’s for the various regulatory and government inquiries to determine. California’s Air Resources Board is now looking into other manufacturers’ testing results. Ford, BMW and Renault-Nissan have said they did not use “defeat devices”, while other firms have either not commented or simply stated that they comply with the law.

The UK trade body for the car industry, the SMMT, said: “The EU operates a fundamentally different system to the US – with all European tests performed in strict conditions as required by EU law and witnessed by a government-appointed independent approval agency.”

But it added: “The industry acknowledges that the current test method is outdated and is seeking agreement from the European Commission for a new emissions test that embraces new testing technologies and is more representative of on-road conditions.”

That sounds like EU testing rules need tightening, too.

Environmental campaigners have long argued that emissions rules are being flouted. “Diesel cars in Europe operate with worse technology on average than the US,” said Jos Dings, from the pressure group Transport & Environment. “Our latest report demonstrated that almost 90% of diesel vehicles didn’t meet emission limits when they drive on the road. We are talking millions of vehicles.”

Car analysts at the financial research firm Bernstein agree that European standards are not as strict as those in the US. However, the analysts said in a report that there was, therefore, “less need to cheat”. So, if other European carmakers’ results are suspect, Bernstein says the “consequences are likely to be a change in the test cycle rather than legal action and fines”.

It’s all another blow for the diesel market.

Certainly is. Over the past decade and more, carmakers have poured a fortune into the production of diesel vehicles – with the support of many governments – believing that they are better for the environment. Latest scientific evidence suggests that’s not the case, and there are even moves to limit diesel cars in some cities.

Diesel sales were already slowing, so the VW scandal came at a bad time. “The revelations are likely to lead to a sharp fall in demand for diesel engine cars,” said Richard Gane, automotive expert at consultants Vendigital.

“In the US, the diesel car market currently represents around 1% of all new car sales and this is unlikely to increase in the short to medium term.

“However, in Europe the impact could be much more significant, leading to a large tranche of the market switching to petrol engine cars virtually overnight.”

Seat says 700,000 cars have ‘cheat’ emissions software

Seat has said about 700,000 of its cars are fitted with the software that allowed parent company Volkswagen to cheat US emissions tests.

A spokesman said they are currently trying to work out how many were sold in each national market.

In Spain slightly over 3,000 new cars are affected but showrooms have been told to put them aside.

VW has said a total of 11m diesel engines are involved in the emission’s scandal.

Broken down brand-by-brand they are:

VW – 5m
Audi – 2.1m
Skoda – 1.2m
Seat – 700,000
Vans – 1.8m

Seat said it planned to contact owners so their cars can undergo tests.

It will also set up a search engine on its website to allow customers to find out if their vehicles are affected.

The Spanish carmaker said it had temporarily suspended the sale and delivery of all new vehicles with the EA 189 engines which contain the software.

Scandal spilling over

The scandal is continuing to hit VW’s share price. On Tuesday it fell another 1.5% during morning trade in Frankfurt. The company has lost 35% of its market value since last Monday.

A survey of 62 institutional investors by the investment banking advisory firm Evercore, showed 66% of them would not invest in VW for 6 months or until it clarified what costs, fines, and legal proceedings it faced.

The effects are also spilling over into the local economy around VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. The city is expecting a fall in business tax revenue from VW and the mayor has announced a budget freeze and hiring ban on public sector workers.

The scandal was revealed after the US Environmental Protection Agency found that some VW diesel cars were fitted with devices that could detect when the engine was being tested, and could change the car’s performance to improve results.

The German company has apologised for breaching consumers’ trust, and on Friday announced that Matthias Mueller was replacing Martin Winterkorn as chief executive. Mr Mueller promised a “relentless” investigation to uncover what went wrong.

He said the group was “facing the severest test in its history.”

German prosecutors announced on Monday that it was conducting a criminal investigation of Volkswagen’s former chief executive.

Here’s The Joke Of A Sustainability Report That VW Put Out Last Year

Now that we know Volkswagen purposefully rigged 11 million vehicles to circumvent environmental rules, releasing an enormous amount of pollutants into the atmosphere, the company’s Sustainability Report from 2014 comes off as a horrible joke.

“It’s a jaw-dropper. So unbelievable,” Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council told The Huffington Post.

In the report, which was reviewed by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the automaker details its commitment to the customer, its employees and, of course, to the environment. “Environment” is mentioned 335 times over 156-pages — an average of twice per page.

“The Volkswagen Group has a long tradition of resolute commitment to environmental protection.” — page 86.

“We intend to put our creative powers to good use for the benefit of people and the environment.” — page 14.

As we now know, Volkswagen put its creative powers to use in a far less noble way, devising software to purposefully cheat on emissions tests and secretly installing it its diesel vehicles. On Wednesday, chief executive Martin Winterkorn was forced to quit his job at the world’s largest automaker in the wake of the growing scandal and in anticipation of billions in fines, lawsuits and increasing customer rage. More firings are on deck.

VW’s report follows a long tradition of companies using self-reported data — sometimes certified by well-paid consulting firms — to make broad declarations of ethical commitment, used to reassure the public that companies aren’t just profit-seeking monsters. These are called “corporate social responsibility” reports, “CSR” is the biz lingo. This is a huge movement; most corporations produce these things. Here’s Coca-Cola’s. And Ikea’s. And Exxon-Mobil’s.

And, of course, not all of these efforts are mere publicity ploys. Some companies take this stuff very seriously, even tying environmental goals to executive pay — an extremely sigficant matter. But in the wake of the VW scandal, it’s going to be harder for anyone to believe a word in these reports.

“[Volkswagen] will probably severely tarnish this entire movement,” writes Greer in a blog post. She’s written before about the key danger of CSR programs: that they end up as merely shiny promotional efforts that allow businesses to sidestep true responsibility for their endeavors.

“There are some companies doing good things,” Greer told HuffPost. “Oftentimes they’re just doing it and not necessarily putting it in a report.”

Yet many efforts are sideshows. Companies give money to philanthropies, for example, but fail to examine the core parts of their businesses that need attention.
Volkswagen will probably severely tarnish this entire movement.Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Greer is working with Target now on cleaning up environmental issues in the retailer’s supply chain. She also commends Apple for dealing with pollution issues overseas. “They have a CSR report, but I think they are walking the walk more than just talking the talk,” she said of Apple.

VW’s absurd document follows a long tradition. BP is also notorious for the false promise of its environmental slogans. The oil company won plaudits for acknowledging the reality of global warming and for the slogan “Beyond Petroleum” back in 2000. Then, in 2010, BP caused one of the worst oil spills in history.

By contrast, Exxon Mobil after the Exxon Valdez disaster became “religious about safety standards,” writes Chrystia Freeland for the Washington Post in 2010. Getting the oil out of the ground and moving it around the world without killing anyone or destroying the ocean is a core social responsibility.

So is adhering to environmental regulations, which VW brazenly decided to forgo.

Companies need to start with those simple goals before moving on to marketing materials.

Beijing Blue Sky Turns into Pollution Clouds Immediately After Huge Parade

image001 (2)The pollution levels went sky high shortly after a huge military parade in Beijing. That is why, Beijing bans 2.5m cars for 2 weeks to achieve blue sky for parade

It was a sudden reversion to the old way of things. But such a thing was to be expected. A day after China’s massive military parade, the smog levels in Beijing went up, up and up.

Smog as everyone knows is smoke plus fog. And it is dangerous for lung function and public buildings. The blue skies that had been the norm since half a month or so had vanished overnight.

Beijing had a two week cleanup operation during which extra special care was taken to subdue the pollution levels. All car exhausts and sources of billowing smoke were eradicated.

The whole shebang was in preparation for the parade.

This parade was to celebrate the defeat of Japan in WWII. Scores of industrial outlets were closed during the two weeks and all cars were banned from the streets. Obviously the pollution levels simply vanished into thin air.

It was the most humongous parade ever held in China. And the excitement was at an all-time high. The parade was termed Parade Blue in honor of the pure skies of clean crispy air.

But such a state of affairs was not to last. A single day has passed and the same old grey skyline has resumed to cast its dismal shadow over all of Beijing. This is sad indeed.

According to the EPA, the smog and pollution levels are even worse than before. It is almost like the lull in things has caused a backlash of sorts. Now the industrial units are back in action and they are churning out pollutants.

The satanic mills are sending forth smoke that is black as hell. And all that effort that had lasted two weeks is gone within a time span of 24 hours.

The Victory Day Parade was a charade that has ended as suddenly as it had materialized. A year ago for a similar occasion, the pollution was cut to zero and the clear blue skies re-emerged.

But way back then the selfsame thing happened and the pollution returned in a villainous manner. China has always had a problem with pollution, according to CNN.

Being the carbon copy technology center of the world, it is only natural that all the pollutants would be concentrated in the Sino-Sphere. The dense black and grey clouds of smog have enveloped the city of Beijing once more. And so it is back to reality which is indeed a very depressing thing.

Begone trams and TST promenade! What next? Eiffel Tower?

The old assertion “great minds think alike” – which triggers the riposte: “fools never differ” – comes to mind with recent ideas to ‘improve’ local iconic landmarks.

First of all there’s the astonishing proposal to remove green trams from Central to Admiralty to allow more smoke-spewing trucks and private cars into one of the city’s most polluted areas. Secondly there’s the similarly outrageous idea to put top tourist and residents’ draw, the Tsim Tsa-tsui Promenade, off limits for several years for an upgrade.

In the first case, the ridiculous reasoning is that tram-free roads will reduce traffic flow – but for whom? Cars and trucks. Get rid of the latter and the trams will run freely in a pedestrian-friendly zone in line with city centers in advanced cities worldwide. In the second case, the TST waterfront supposedly needs improving so who cares if all strollers are deprived of the magnificent harbor panorama? Who cares if many tourists stay away for the next three or more years until the work is completed – it’s progress stupid! Hang on, isn’t TST as a tourist magnet a package: the shopping, the buzz and the breathtaking harborside views? And what do we eventually get by closing off this star attraction? It’s not exactly earth-shattering; a performance venue and another restaurant or two. Meanwhile given the great largesse of the developer, pouring money into a no-profit venture, surely, along the line, there should be compensation n’est-ce pas? Well how about squeezing in another tower or two into the adjoining area? Déjà vu anyone?

Back to losing the trams. This piece of genius – to be official-planner considered – came from a retired member of their ilk who runs a consultancy, called “Intellects”. No, I didn’t make this up. Ease dire traffic congestion in central by removing the trams he says.

However an Environmental Protection Department study, under the co-remit of their undersecretary, the capable environmentalist, and former pan-democrat camp legislator, Christine Loh Kung-wai, came to the admirable conclusion that private cars were the main culprit in traffic congestion in Central. Heaven forbid the thought that senior town planners thinking of their own chauffeur-driven convenience at the expense of nearly everyone else? Banish the thought! How could hugely paid officials whose job it is to plan according to the welfare of the public sacrifice the needs and convenience of the millions for their benefit? Unthinkable.

The counter argument to the continued running of trams is that they are slow, rattling, nostalgic remnants of a bygone age that have outlived their usefulness. Why use that form of public transport when there’s the MTR? Convenience; more frequent stops than buses, and many more stations than the MTR. Then there’s the view for tourists and locals alike at a speed which allows passengers to take it in. Not least there’s the heritage value, an undoubted tourism asset is their age and uniqueness – the only two-deck tram service in the world. Lastly they are pollution-free road vehicles, and that’s where the world is going. Trams are coming back.

Let’s not forget that for civil service and government transport decision-makers MTR trumps trams. This proposal could be the thin end of the wedge. Then why not in future expand the tram-free zone; then why not get rid of the dinosaurs altogether?

If these plans go ahead there’s more at stake than temporary shut down of the promenade and part loss of the trams. I mean not everybody loves the TST Avenue of Stars and many people rarely of never take the trams, which are slow, rattly, and through their open windows expose people to highly polluted streets.

Trams for Clean Air

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Adapting to air pollution with clean air stands in China

John Abraham

As with climate change, both mitigation and adaptation are needed to tackle air pollution in China

A traffic police officer standing on an expressway is barely visible due to hazardous pollution levels, in Hebei province, China, 26 November 2014. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

A traffic police officer standing on an expressway is barely visible due to hazardous pollution levels, in Hebei province, China, 26 November 2014. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

To adapt or to mitigate? That is the question that faces governments and industries across the globe as the impacts of climate change and pollution become ever clearer. It turns out, we will need to do both. The longer we allow pollution to be freely emitted, the fewer and more expensive will be the choices remaining to us.

Pollution adaptation can take many forms, but it generally means dealing with a pollutant after it has been emitted, or it can mean changing infrastructure to make it more resilient to heavy rains, floods, or more intense storms.

One great example of adaptation is being developed in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia by a major engineering company (Arup Engineering) and the CSR arm of a Hong Kong property developer (Sino Green). Arup and Sino Green are dealing with the environmental problem of localized airborne pollution.

In many parts of the world, airborne pollution levels are very high and can be elevated for long periods of time. These high levels of pollution can pose health problems to people and animals, particularly people with other health problems or those who are young or the elderly. In some cases, the airborne pollution levels can be at high levels for 8,000 hours (90%+) in a single year.

There are many sources of pollution; for Arup Engineering, whose East Asia headquarters is in Hong Kong, much of the pollution is from nearby heavy industries across the border in mainland China and from vehicle emissions. At other locations, high levels of airborne pollution may be caused by burning of wood or dung for fire, slash-and-burn agricultural practices (particularly for countries near Indonesia), or from other causes. But, regardless of the cause, companies such as Arup are trying to find ways to reduce human exposure even when the airborne pollution levels are high.

Arup is embarking on an effort to provide filtered air zones for people who are street side, perhaps waiting for public transportation. Much like a bus stop, the proposed structure (called City Air Purification System) provides clean air flow to create a cocoon around bystanders, shown in the following photograph.

Dr. Jimmy Tong (right) and colleagues from Sino Group. From right to left, Mr. David Ng, Executive Assistant to Chairman, Mr. Daryl Ng, Executive Director, and Mr. Vincent Lo, General Manager, showcasing a patent-pending clean-air stand in Hong Kong.

Dr. Jimmy Tong (right) and colleagues from Sino Group. From right to left, Mr. David Ng, Executive Assistant to Chairman, Mr. Daryl Ng, Executive Director, and Mr. Vincent Lo, General Manager, showcasing a patent-pending clean-air stand in Hong Kong.

The stand is able to accommodate approximately 20 people and washes them with filtered air, protecting them from particulates from passing traffic. The company has shown by both experiment and by numerical simulation (similar to a climate model), that the occupants breathe significantly healthier air.

Not only is the Arup/Sino Green structure very energy efficient, but by providing clean air to residents, it is possible to counteract the deleterious health effects on the human body, particularly the respiratory and cardiovascular system.

An installed Arup/Sino Green clean-air stand in Hong Kong.

An installed Arup/Sino Green clean-air stand in Hong Kong.

I asked the lead inventor, Dr. Jimmy Tong (with whom I worked in the past) about this project. He told me,

The system tested in Hong Kong had demonstrated an effectiveness of reducing particulate matter by 30–70%, and the system is moving to Beijing, China for further testing. Its success could also have huge effects when used in other cities around the world struggling with air pollution.

My view is that it is always better to deal with pollution by reducing the emissions. Adaptation is more expensive and less certain than mitigation. However, when the will to mitigate is not found, adaptation is the only plan B. Arup/Sino Green’s device is a bit of a window on the future to local solutions for a global problem.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interests in Arup Engineering nor Sino Green or in any of their products or services.

Google Street View cars are starting to map air pollution

By Jacob Kastrenakes

A small number of Google Street View cars are recording more than photos of the road — they’re also taking snapshots of the air quality around them. Aclima, a company that creates networks of environmental sensors, announced this week that it’s been working with Google to put air quality detectors on some of its cars. The sensors allow Google’s vehicles to pick up information on carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon, particulate matter, and other pollutants on a block-by-block basis. “We hope this information will enable more people to be aware of how our cities live and breathe and join the dialogue on how to make improvements to air quality,” Karin Tuxen-Bettman, a Google Earth Outreach program manager, says in a statement.

An initial trial was run in Denver, where three cars with air quality sensors on them drove around for a total of 750 hours over the course of a month. The trips were part of a study being conducted by NASA and the EPA that’s focused on improving the collection of air quality data. Some of their findings are available on Aclima’s website.

Google and Aclima intend to begin conducting similar tests in the San Francisco Bay Area next. Aclima doesn’t say how widely these sensors will be used, but it wants to collect enough data to hand off to local scientists and communities to work with. The partnership hopes that the tests will lead to a better understanding of urban air quality. Already, the EPA says it’s helping to determine how air pollutants “move in an urban area at the ground level.”

Aclima says that its Denver trial was a proof of concept that’ll help it to scale up the partnership. Eventually, Aclima says it’ll be possible for these sensors to be used “anywhere Google Street View vehicles drive.” Google will have to agree to that, of course, but the partnership seems like a smart way of getting more data out of Google’s already bustling fleet of cars.

Correction July 29th, 1:55PM ET: Aclima creates and deploys environmental sensor networks. It does not create the sensors, as this story initially stated.

Nearly 9,500 people die early in a single year as a result of air pollution in London, study finds

image001Researchers find the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution was higher than previously thought

James Rush

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Nearly 9,500 people died early in a single year as a result of long-term exposure to air pollution in London, according to new research.
Researchers from King’s College London found the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution was higher than previously thought after taking into account the effects of both airborne particles, also known as PM2.5, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic gas which is largely a by-product of diesel engines.

It is believed to be the first time an attempt has been made to quantify the health and economic impacts of NO2, with previous studies focusing only on PM2.5.

The researchers estimated the number of premature deaths associated with PM2.5 in 2010 was 3,537, while the number of deaths associated with NO2 was believed to be 5,879 – creating a total of 9,416 premature deaths attributed to air pollution.

In January this year it was reported that NO2 levels in Oxford Street had exceeded the legal limit for the whole of 2015 in the space of just four days – while the limit was also breached in Putney High Street a day later.

Meanwhile in April the Supreme Court ordered the government to take action to bring UK air pollution within legal limits after a case was brought by environmental law group ClientEarth.

The new report, put together for the Greater London Authority, has found that most of the deaths caused by NO2 were linked to road transport and other sources from within the city, while health issues caused by PM2.5 were predominantly from particles created outside of London, including emissions transported from Europe.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has now called for the UK government and the EU to take further action to improve air quality across Europe in the wake of the latest research.

Simon Birkett, founder and director of Clean Air In London, applauded Mr Johnson “for leading the world by publishing the first estimates for the number of deaths attributable to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as he famously did for particles in 2010” but also called for a ban on diesel from the most polluted areas by 2018.

He said: “These estimates will send shockwaves around the world. We were expecting bad news given scientists say many roads in central London will tend to have the highest concentrations of NO2 in the world and levels in Oxford Street are well over three times the legal limit that have been in legislation since 1999 to be met by 2010. But these numbers are much worse than the 7,500 total deaths attributable to long-term exposure to air pollution that we estimated from the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone consultation documents late last year.”

The Mayor of London’s office has said due to the fact the data is five years old, it will not include the impact of measures implemented since 2010. These include the tightening of Low Emission Zone standards, the delivery of more than 1,300 hybrid buses and the introduction of age limits for taxis.

The Mayor has also confirmed the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London from 2020.

Campaigners however have said the government must do more to prevent premature deaths caused by air pollution.

Alan Andrews, a lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “This new research piles more pressure on the government to come up with a clear and credible plan to cut pollution from diesel vehicles.”

He went on to say: “Nitrogen dioxide is produced mainly by diesel vehicles. We need to get the worst polluting of these out of our towns and cities, away from our schools and hospitals. That requires action from the government on a national scale.”

Philip Insall, health director at charity Sustrans, said: “The evidence of damage caused by air pollution is so damning that the Government can’t afford not to act, and act now.

“By reducing our reliance on motor vehicles and putting serious investment into walking and cycling we can slash pollution, and at the same time we will benefit from lower obesity, reduced traffic congestion and more pleasant urban environments.”

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, impairs child lung development and increases the risk of hospitalisation among people with a pre-existing lung condition. It is time we stop talking and take immediate action to prevent more people being needlessly killed by the air that they breathe.”

Mr Johnson said: “I’ve been criticised for cleaning up taxis, upgrading bus fleets and my plans for the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2020, but this study shows imperatively why these bold measures are required. I need the help and strong support of the Government and the EU to effectively win London’s pollution battle and target the enormous amount of toxic air transported into our great capital internationally.”

The government’s scientific advisors are set to warn this year that air pollution across the UK may be to blame for as many as 60,000 early deaths in Britain each year.

In November The Sunday Times reported that the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, an official advisory body, was expected to publish a report this year showing that the premature death toll caused by road traffic pollution is around twice as high as originally thought.