Sponsored: Volvo Trucks – air quality under the urban microscope

There can be no mistaking that the brand and reputation of diesel as a fuel for commercial vehicles has been damaged in recent years. Indeed, one effect of the 2015 ‘Dieselgate’ scandal has been to shine a light not just on diesel cars, but on all diesel-powered vehicles and the significant part played by their oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions in affecting urban air quality.

With the European Commission preparing the ground for its post-2025 environmental standards, the effectiveness of today's Euro-6 regulations in reducing NOx pollution is also coming under close scrutiny.

The automotive industry has grown used to the term NOx as a catch-all for the two principal oxides of nitrogen (NO or nitric oxide, and NO2 or nitrogen dioxide) with NO2 being the most important in terms of direct health impacts, with high local concentrations of NO, leading to breathing difficulties.

Looking further ahead, it is to be expected that future regulations will continue to inspire chemists and engineers alike to seek different and improved solutions to NOx reduction.

The first improvement will come into force in September 2019 with the advent of Euro-6 – Step D. but as yet a Euro-7 standard has yet to be agreed, which is generally expected to be implemented around 2025 with limits for a much wider range of pollutants, including substances such as formaldehyde and ammonia.

However, as Europe's requirements for its vehicle fleets head toward a goal of 98 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2020, many manufacturers have responded to this problem by exploring the possibility of including electric vehicles into their product range.

Volvo Trucks, for example, as befits a company having ‘care for the environment’ as a core value, are at the forefront of this technology and have already launched two new electric trucks – the Volvo FL Electric and Volvo FE Electric (pictured); the latter was showcased as a chassis cab configuration at this year’s Freight in the City.

Of course, electric take-up will depend on the ability for fleets to have access to rapid or overnight charging, which will be essential for logistics if the government wants businesses to switch to low emission vehicles, such as electric trucks. Here the tide is already starting to turn with around 2,000 standard charge points already installed across London with a further 150 TfL-funded ones set to join them by the end of 2018.

A number of local authorities have continued to develop their thinking on the measures they are required to introduce to address poor air quality. To date, most of the detail of these plans is unconfirmed; the exceptions are the London Ultra Low Emission Zone - where the introduction date is October 2020 - and Birmingham and Glasgow, where a low emission Clean Air Zones (CAZ) affecting commercial vehicles are set to be introduced before the end of 2020. Other cities will surely follow suit including Southampton, Derby, Leeds and Oxford with many others already expressing an interest.

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