<![CDATA[GEM Air Quality Ltd - Blog]]>Wed, 21 Feb 2018 21:52:27 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Air Quality and the VW Emissions Controversy]]>Fri, 25 Sep 2015 08:47:33 GMThttp://gemairquality.co.uk/blog/vw-emissions-controversyThe recent VW emissions controversy is as close to a full blown scandal that the air quality industry is ever likely to see! Think of it as our LIBOR, PPI or the impeachment of President Clinton!  Joking aside, the fact that VW has openly admitted to cheating during the emissions testing of some its vehicles certainly raises some interesting questions in relation to local air quality.

Firstly, it highlights irregularities with the emissions testing procedure itself. This has been under some scrutiny recently for not representing real world driving conditions. This has been used in part to explain the discrepancy between tighter vehicle emissions and the lack of improvement in local air quality in our towns and cities.  The revelation that VW has also been fixing the emission tests so that their vehicles produce lower emissions during the testing procedure perhaps overrides any concerns about whether the test itself represents real world driving conditions. The combination of the two is the unfortunate worst case scenario where we currently find ourselves.

Secondly, it opens a whole can of worms for those that have purchased vehicles for their lower emissions.  Take the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in London, for example.  This was established to encourage the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving in London to become cleaner.  Granted, the LEZ does not apply to smaller vehicles but imagine if the emissions trickery undertaken by VW is endemic amongst all vehicle manufacturers, including those making heavy diesel vehicles. This could mean that individuals or companies have purchased a less polluting heavy diesel vehicle in order to avoid paying charges within the LEZ.  Or rather they have purchased what they believed to be a less polluting vehicle. Chances are they have gone to the extra expense of purchasing this vehicle only for it to have no benefit in terms of the emissions it generates.

There is also the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to consider.  The ULEZ will be introduced in 2020.  All cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses and heavy goods vehicles entering the ULEZ will need to meet exhaust emission standards or pay an additional daily charge to travel within the zone.  These emission standards will be aligned with the latest Euro emission standards e.g. Euro 6 for cars. It is these Euro emission standards, for nitrogen oxide (NOx) in particular that VW has admitted to rigging.

So perhaps the VW emissions scandal has arrived just in time for the ULEZ? We may find that in 5 years time someone wishing to buy a Euro 6 compliant car will be confident that the emissions from that car are as advertised.  As a result, may we also see that air quality in our towns and cities finally improving with real world vehicle emissions mirroring their laboratory counterparts? Or are the low emissions we seek only achievable in laboratories (under false driving conditions, tampering of the car and tweaking of the data) meaning real world improvements in air quality will need to be achieved in some other way?

These are interesting and revelatory times for the air quality world.

<![CDATA[Why is our air quality not improving?]]>Wed, 26 Aug 2015 12:08:31 GMThttp://gemairquality.co.uk/blog/why-is-our-air-quality-not-improvingAn interesting and informative 10-min presentation by Dr James Tate (University of Leeds). He discusses why we haven't seen real world reductions in air quality (NOx) despite tighter emission standards, low emission zones and other such initiatives. It's not good news for diesel engines I'm afraid.
This is something that really needs to be addressed urgently. Otherwise we risk spending large amounts of time and money on implementing policy and initiatives that may not generate the improvements in the real world emissions that the laboratory data suggests.
<![CDATA[New Air Quality Planning Guidance]]>Mon, 06 Jul 2015 09:39:06 GMThttp://gemairquality.co.uk/blog/new-air-quality-planning-guidancePicture
Environmental Protection UK (EPUK) and the Institute of Air Quality Management (IAQM) released new guidance in May 2015 relating to the consideration of air quality within the land-use planning and development control process.

The main focus of the guidance is to determine the level of impact (negligible, slight, moderate or substantial) associated with a proposed development. The method for assigning these impact descriptors are different to those contained within previous guidance. Firstly, the magnitude of incremental change as a proportion of the relevant Air Quality Assessment Level (AQAL) is determined. This percentage change is then examined in the context of the new total concentration and its relationship with the AQAL.

The new guidance is likely to result in smaller developments having a greater level of impact whereas previously they would have been categorised as negligible. However, determination of whether the overall impact of a development is considered significant is open to professional judgement.

<![CDATA[Airport Expansion]]>Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:01:08 GMThttp://gemairquality.co.uk/blog/airport-expansion The Airport Commission has recommended the expansion of Heathrow Airport as the preferred option for improving the UK’s airport capacity.  However, in order to reduce the impact on noise and air quality there should be “severe restrictions”. This would seem somewhat counter intuitive. Why spend billions on upgrading an airport if only to limit when it can operate?

Furthermore, there would be considerable disruption caused by its construction.  M25 users would face years of disruption between junctions 14 and 15, whilst the residents of Harmondsworth would face relocation.

Moreover, many are reporting that this third runway would only be a stop-gap between a potential fourth runway. Which begs the question why we don’t think long term and build a 21st century airport that will be fit for purpose for many years to come?  With a majority Conservative government would it not be more logical (easier?) for them to make a long term decision and give serious consideration to a new airport in the Thames Estuary or even somewhere north of London? Assuming HS2 is given the go ahead, a new hub airport could be built near Birmingham with an HS2 connection, with journey times into London comparable to that of Heathrow.

With a number of large scale infrastructure projects on the horizon, why not adopt some joined up thinking and integrate these projects as much as possible? And why stop at transport? The Government could build a new parliament building next to what I'm calling the "Birmingham Transport Hub" (new airport and HS2 terminal), allowing the Palace of Westminster to be opened to the public and its restoration to be part funded by the public?