Tyre pollution could be 1,200 times WORSE than exhaust emissions

Tyre emissions 1,000-times worse than exhaust emissions

A new study has revealed that tyre emissions could be much worse than those coming from car exhausts. Testing was undertaken using a popular family hatchback, running brand new, correctly-inflated tyres.

The experiment was undertaken by Emissions Analytics, which has previously highlighted the issue of tyre emissions. The new study backs up those concerns.

Tyre emissions tested

McLaren 765LT

For reference, Euro 6D emissions regulations state that a car should emit no more than 0.0045g/km of exhaust particulates. Emissions Analytics found that tyres, brakes and road surfaces combined emit 5.8g/km of non-exhaust emissions (NEE) – that’s 1,289 times worse. Tyre wear pollution is currently unregulated.

In reality, few cars will be running on new tyres inflated to the correct pressures. This means the actual NEE emissions figures could be much worse than the results of the Emissions Analytics test.

The UK government’s Air Quality Expert Group has requested before that NEEs be recognised as a source of airborne particulates, even on electric vehicles (EVs). It’s been pointed out before that EV NEE figures could be worse than an equivalent petrol or diesel-powered car. 

Tyre emissions 1,000-times worse than exhaust emissions

“It’s time to consider not just what comes out of a car’s exhaust pipe but particle pollution from tyre and brake wear,” said Richard Lofthouse, senior researcher at Emissions Analytics.

“Our initial tests reveal that there can be a shocking amount of particle pollution from tyres – 1,000 times worse than emissions from a car’s exhaust. What is even more frightening is that while exhaust emissions have been tightly regulated for many years, tyre wear is totally unregulated – and with the increasing growth in sales of heavier SUVs and battery-powered electric cars, non-exhaust emissions are a very serious problem.”

Emissions regulations ‘frankly out of date’

Tyre emissions 1,000-times worse than exhaust emissions

“The challenge to the industry and regulators is an almost complete black hole of consumer information, undone by frankly out of date regulations still preoccupied with exhaust emissions,” said Nick Molden, CEO of Emissions Analytics.

“Ultimately, though, the car industry may have to find ways to reduce vehicle weight too. What is without doubt on the horizon is much-needed regulation to combat this problem. Whether that leads to specific types of low emission, harder wearing tyres is not for us to say – but change has to come.”


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Is Uber worse for the environment than driving yourself?

Ride-hailing less eco friendly than driving

It’s claimed that ride-hailing, using companies like Uber, can be less eco-friendly than other means of getting to your destination, including driving yourself. That’s according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

As ride-hailing apps have proliferated over the last decade, some have called them the eco-conscious alternative to owning and running your own vehicle. In many circumstances, says the UCS, the contrary is the case. 

When is ride-hailing worse for the planet?

Uber London licence 2019

Ride-hailing has an initial problem compared with to personal motoring. It’s called ‘deadheading’. This is the mileage your driver covers when not driving you to your destination. As an example, an Uber might cover two miles to get to you, then shuttle you a further two miles, then take another two-mile journey to its next fare. That’s at least four miles of driving for that two-mile journey. 

Based on data from seven US metropolitan areas, ride-hailing can produce between 130 and 175 percent of the emissions emitted when driving oneself.

That also makes it much more polluting than getting the bus or train, at least in urban areas. Yet that’s where ride-hailing is most popular. 

‘A typical ride-hailing trip is about 69 percent more polluting than the trips it replaces, and can increase congestion during peak periods,’ the report reads.

Getting ride-hailing emissions down

Uber London emissions

There are two main ways of making sure that ride-hailing emissions are reduced, according to the report. Firstly, if your cab is electric, emissions are cut by more than half compared with driving a private vehicle. Less than one percent of Californian ride-hailing trips, based on mileage, were electric in 2018.

Secondly, there’s the act of pooling.This is when you share your ride with someone else, so their journey is also your journey. The California Air Resources Board reports that riders asked for pooled trips about 20 percent of the time, although that can extend journey distances.

Combine a pooled ride with an electric vehicle and the overall emissions cost is less than 30 percent of driving privately. ‘An electric, pooled ride-hailing trip can cut emissions by 68 percent compared with a private vehicle trip in the average car, or about 79 percent compared with a non-pooled ride-hailing trip,’ the report by the UCS reads.

By comparison, an EV ride, or a pooled EV ride, is more efficient than an urban bus ride. It’s also worth considering that you can reduce emissions if you combine your ride-hailing trip with a mass transit method like a bus or train.

Uber London emissions

What this does not address is congestion. Fifteen passengers on a single bus is less congesting for instance, than 15 passengers spread over seven EVs. Note, that scenario is the best we’ve stated so far: pooled EVs.

‘Electrifying ride-hailing and increasing the number of rides that are pooled are essential actions for managing the industry’s climate pollution,’ the report says.

‘For ride-hailing to contribute to better climate and congestion outcomes, trips must be pooled and electric, displace single-occupancy car trips more often, and encourage low-emissions modes such as mass transit, biking, and walking.’

One in 19 urban deaths linked to air pollution

deaths linked to toxic air pollution cities

A new study estimates that more than one in every 19 deaths in UK cities is related to air pollution. That makes  air pollution 25 times more deadly than road traffic incidents, in terms of the numbers killed.

The Cities Outlook study, conducted annually by Centre for Cities, refers specifically to urban areas, where the levels of PM2.5 particulates are mostly well above World Health Organisation guidelines. At present, these are not illegal levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Overall, 62 percent of roads that are monitored in UK cities exceed WHO guidelines for PM2.5. And 19 of the UK’s city road networks breach those guidelines entirely. That means all city streets are above safe pollution levels – an issue that affects 14 million people across Britain.

‘Transport is a significant, but not sole contributor’

deaths linked to toxic air pollution cities

Centre for cities, while highlighting the issue around transport emissions, cited other causes for high levels in cities. Fuel burning, such as in wood burning stoves and coal fires, is claimed to account for half of PM2.5 particulates in urban areas. Not all is locally generated either, as the south of England (a problem area) suffers with emissions blown in from Europe.


Cities with the most and least estimated PM2.5-related deaths
Most deathsLeast deaths
RankCityPM2.5-related deaths, of total deathsRankCityPM2.5-related deaths, of total deaths
Deaths in people aged 25 and over, 2017

‘Extra money and stricter guidelines’ 

“More than half of people in the UK live in cities and large towns,” said Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities.

“Cities Outlook 2020 shows that they are having a damaging effect on their health, with air pollution killing thousands of people living in cities every year.

deaths linked to toxic air pollution cities

“Cities should be at the centre of the fight against toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood burning stoves.

“To help the Government needs to provide extra money and introduce stricter guidelines. The deadly levels of polluted air we’re breathing are legal across most of the UK. This needs to change. Failure to act now will lead to more deaths.”

Two-hour Netflix binge worse for emissions than 15 miles of driving

Netflix emissions

Binging on Netflix could be worse for the environment than the drive to the store to buy a DVD. That’s according to French think tank The Shift Project.

It’s claimed that two hours watching Netflix puts you in a chain of emissions generation equivalent to driving over 15 miles. That’s on average – actual person-by-person figures must depend on the specific car.

Over the course of 2019, it’s said that online streaming services like Netflix collectively generated emissions equivalent to that of Spain. The Shift Project expects that to double, too. All in, around 34 percent of online traffic can be attributed to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and more.

Diesel particulate emissions

At present, digital technologies – ranging from data centres to you charging your phone – represent four percent of worldwide carbon emissions. That’s more than civil air transport. However, the output increases by eight percent every year.

Estimates from experts at Huawei Technologies suggest that digital technologies could account for 20 percent of the world’s electricity use by 2030.

How is an hour of Netflix more damaging than an eight-mile drive?Emissions reduction congestion charge zone

The problem is that services like Netflix have enormous libraries of content that have to be hosted somewhere. Droves of data banks and servers consume energy. On top of simply keeping them powered up, a massive amount of energy is consumed keeping them cool. And they’re running 24/7, 365 days a year.

“How we power our digital infrastructure is rapidly becoming critical to whether we will be able to arrest climate change in time,” says Gary Cook, IT sector analyst at Greenpeace.

Essex council slashes speed limit to reduce emissions

A127 speed limit cut

The A127 to the north of Basildon in Essex will have its speed limit reduced from 70mph to 50mph in a bid to reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions from traffic. Essex Highways and Basildon Council say that, as a result, ambient air quality and NOx levels should reach safe levels by 2021. 

The move comes after the local authorities were issued a ministerial directive by the government to improve air quality on the section of road as quickly as possible.

It’s claimed that at 50mph, NOx emissions from a car’s engine are reduced by up to 20 percent, compared with at 70mph. The majority of engines are most efficient at around 50mph, too.

A127 speed limit: what you need to knowA127 speed limit cut

Work starts on 27 January to begin implementing the limit, with signs and average speed cameras being installed. It will be on both carriageways between the Fortune of War roundabout and around 470m east of the Pound Lane (west) and Cranfield Park Road (east) junctions. 

The A127 has been identified as a problem area for emissions, but it’s not just higher speed that’s the issue. The new limit is also predicted to reduce congestion, keeping the movement of cars smooth and steady.

A127 speed limit cut

“Engines work most efficiently at around 50mph; vehicles driving below 50mph and above 55mph produce more emissions from their exhausts,” says the Essex Highways website.

“While traffic is often slower than 50mph at peak times, having a consistently lower speed limit helps to improve journey time reliability by smoothing the traffic flow, because it reduces the number of times vehicles have to stop and start again.

“This in turn reduces the time traffic is stationary or moving slowly in queues, and has an air quality benefit as vehicles’ engines emit the most NOx emissions when they are switched on but not moving, or moving slowly.”

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Brake dust as toxic as diesel fumes, warn scientists

Brake dust emissions as bad as diesel

New research has revealed more about the dangers of particulate emissions from car braking systems. Tests indicate that brake dust could be just as toxic as particulates from the exhausts of diesel engines. 

Brake pad particulates were found to harm respiratory health, damaging lung cells when they enter. 

The study involved exposing macrophages (immune cells in the lungs that protect them from bacteria) to various particulates. Both diesel exhaust and brake dust particulates were found to reduce the ability of these cells to work. Both also caused the cells to produce immune signalling molecules, which inflame and damage lung tissue.

Brake dust emissions as bad as diesel

“At this time the focus on diesel exhaust emissions is completely justified by the scientific literature,” said Dr Ian Mudway, who led the research at the MRC Centre for Environment and Health at King’s College, London.

“But we should not forget, or discount, the importance of other components, such as metals from mechanical abrasion, especially from brakes.

“There is no such thing as a zero-emission vehicle, and as regulations to reduced exhaust emissions kick in, the contribution from these sources are likely to become more significant.”

Brake dust emissions as bad as diesel

The slice of the particulate pie that non-exhaust emissions represent is projected to increase. The current 7.4 percent figure is expected to rise to 10 percent by 2030.

This is in part due to the increasing weight of cars, which increases wear on brakes. Electric cars are also particularly heavy, and thus pose a greater problem in this regard.

How much have congestion zones improved air quality?

Emissions reduction congestion charge zone

In February 2020, it will be 17 years since the Congestion Charge was introduced for central London. Since then, the idea of incentivising uptake of cleaner cars has evolved.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) now operates in London 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. On top of that, 20 other UK cities are now considering similar schemes to the Congestion Charge. But how has air quality evolved over the past 17 years?

Select Car Leasing has analysed air quality data collected from three points within the zone, before and after the charge was brought in. Overall, carbon monoxide levels are 60 percent lower now than they were before the charge. Likewise, nitrogen dioxide is down by 24 percent, while suphur dioxide is down 61 percent. 

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“Our data shows that the London Congestion Charge zone has broadly achieved its aims,” the report concludes.

“Many Londoners will believe that the cost of cleaner air is certainly a price worth paying. It could be down to this success that many other congestion charges and toll roads are planned throughout the UK in the near future.”

Where are similar schemes being considered?Traffic in Bristol

There are 20 further zones being considered across the United Kingdom. Glasgow, York and Leeds are confirmed to be following London. 

Cities where schemes have been proposed include Newcastle upon Tyne, Manchester, Warrington, Birmingham, Sheffield, Oxford, Bristol, and Bath. Bristol has all but confirmed an outright ban of diesel-powered private cars in certain parts of its city centre. Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen have proposals to follow in Glasgow’s footsteps for Scotland.

As for where could jump on the ULEZ bandwagon? Derby, Cambridge, Cardiff, Slough, Reading and Fareham are all possibles, according to Select Car Leasing.

Tesla battery life loss

The hope is these zones will encourage drivers to sell their petrol- and diesel-powered cars, and buy EVs. That means eventually, a great deal of cars paying minimal road and fuel taxes. At present, these represent a £28.8 billion revenue stream. 

Select Car Leasing suggests three possible options: taxing electric cars more heavily, putting duty on electricity and introducing more tolls. Whatever happens, the government will have to raise the funds sooner or later.

Is that ‘new car smell’ killing you softly?

The dangers of the new car smell

Many of us love the smell of a new car’s interior. But have you ever stopped to consider what that smell actually is?

More importantly, does the ‘new car smell’ pose a risk to your health?

Worryingly, the answer to that question is ‘yes’, according to the emissions and efficiency specialists at Emissions Analytics.

The British firm argues that a car’s interior has the capacity to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) over the life of the vehicle. The ‘new car smell‘ has ‘typically been ignored, partly because it has been difficulty to measure’, it says.

Until now. Thanks to recent advances in technology, it’s now possible to measure the effects of VOCs in a car’s interior over the lifetime of the vehicle. There are dozens of VOCs to consider, including:

  • Residual compounds from the manufacturing process and material treatment of different interior compounds and textiles
  • Adhesives and carrier solvents that will de-gas – as much as 2kg of adhesives can be found in a modern car
  • Degradation of cabin materials as a result of oxidation, ultraviolet light and heat

Acetaldehyde is a particular problem. Exposure can cause ‘flush reactions’, such as itchiness, blotchiness and a flushed complexion. Asian people possess less functional acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme, which is responsible for breaking it down.

What’s in that ‘new car smell’?

New car smell

This is why cars sold in China, Japan and Korea are the subject of strict VOC regulations. Consider the substances outlined in the following table and you might not look at your car’s interior the same way again. The majority are regulated in Asian countries.

Analyte Symptoms
FormaldehydeRespiratory irritant and a contributory factor in asthma and cancer
AcetaldehydeFlush reaction (as outlined above)
AcroleinHighly toxic and severely irritating to the eyes, mucous membranes, respiratory tract, and skin
BenzeneKnown carcinogen
EthylbenzeneCan cause throat irritation and dizziness
XyleneCauses headaches, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea
StyreneCauses headaches
TolueneCommonly known as nail polish remover – can cause headaches and nausea
TetradecaneIrritating to the eyes, mucous membrane and upper respiratory tract

In partnership with Anatune, Emissions Analytics tested a nearly-new Hyundai i10. The car was tested every 15 minutes for 60 seconds over five hours on an early summer’s day.

There were two principle outcomes: a steady accumulations of ten VOCs as temperatures rose, and the unexpected dynamic of emissions during the final 15 minutes.

In particular, methanol and acetone rose from very low base points to more significant levels. While methanol is a common solvent and not directly regulated, it is toxic and could be an irritant.

Of even greater concern is the concentration of acetaldehyde, which rose to more than 10 TIMES the regulated limit in China and Japan.

‘Market failure’

Testing new car interior

Emissions Analytics is calling for more research: ‘From a vehicle testing perspective, the ability to detect and speciate different analytes in real time opens up the possibility for more extensive research of exposure and the potential for regulation to reduce detrimental health exposures.

‘It could also assist driver education in respect of ‘VOC build-up’ when a vehicle is parked in hot weather.’ 

The company is calling for regulations to reflect where there is ‘market failure’, and for greater consumer awareness. Whether or not you like the ‘new car smell’, it looks like we’re set to learn more about its effects on our health.

California will no longer buy gasoline-only cars

California will no longer buy petrol-only cars

The State of California will no longer buy vehicles solely powered by internal combustion engines, says the California Department of General Services (DGS).

State agencies will also avoid buying vehicles from a company that doesn’t adhere to California’s upcoming strict new rules on fuel economy. 

The specifics don’t mean that California is necessarily going all-electric. Looking in finer detail, ‘solely-powered’ basically means conventional non-hybrid automobiles. So-called ‘electrified’ gasoline cars, such as plug-ins and hybrids, will still be allowed.

Exceptions will also be made for some public safety vehicles – where suitable electrified alternatives aren’t available for the specific use case.

California will no longer buy petrol-only cars

The ‘no non-hybrids’ rule is effective now. As for compliance with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rules, that will come in on January 1, 2020.

California has its own standards for fuel economy, that are more strict by comparison with the rest of the United States. Only Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW are on board with these fleet-average standards, over and above the more relaxed national rules.

California’s fleet rules: money to gainCalifornia will no longer buy petrol-only cars

It’s estimated that around $74 million was spent on fleet purchases in 2018 by the state of California. Of that, ‘non-compliant’ marques like Chevrolet, Fiat-Chrysler and Toyota made up over $40 million.

Even though all of these marques will have low and zero-emission / fuel consumption vehicles under their umbrellas, they won’t be part of the Californian new car fleet next year. Why? Because they’ve chosen to follow nationwide standards, not California’s – a move for which all have been criticised.

Compliant Ford, meanwhile, made up $18 million of that California state spend. It could stand to win big, as a vacuum of sorts opens for 2020 and beyond.

Indeed, could the state of California be the first big buyer of the new all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E? It looks possible.

In 2018, the Californian fleet had a six percent figure for fleet BEVs and plug-in hybrids. Big changes are to come, then – and fast… 

Nissan slammed by DVSA for failing to fix Qashqai diesel

Nissan criticised over dirty diesel response

Nissan has come under fire from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for its reluctance to tackle excessive exhaust emissions from Qashqai dCi diesel models.

Nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions were found to be well above what prior testing had established in new WLTP tests – and beyond acceptable standards.

The WLTP fuel economy test was introduced last year and includes RDE (Real Driving Emissions) measurements. It replaces the old NEDC test, which was less realistic in ‘real world’ driving.

Nissan criticised over dirty diesel response

The DVSA’s findings have so far failed to prompt any action from Nissan. It says the Qashqai meets all current standards, and that its priority is future product – rather than re-calibration of existing diesel vehicles.

“All Nissan vehicles fully comply with today’s emissions legislation,” the company’s response reads. “We support the new RDE tests that have now been adopted and have introduced a range of drivetrains to meet them.

“We will continue to develop affordable and innovative solutions to reduce our impact on the environment, such as our Nissan Leaf and e-NV200 electric vehicles.”

Nissan criticised over dirty diesel response

Nissan’s sister company, Renault, has taken a more pro-active approach – something the DVSA highlights in its latest Vehicle Market Surveillance Unit report. Renault, which uses the same engine, has ‘issued a voluntary offer to customers visiting a Renault dealer to implement a NOx upgrade’.

The kicker is that if Renault offers it, then a diesel fix exists that could pertain to affected Nissan models.

The Nissan Qashqai is built at the marque’s Sunderland plant in the UK. It has been one of the UK’s best-selling cars for more than a decade.