Ricardo supports European initiative to develop a global solution for improving air quality and reducing noise in cities

Ricardo supports European initiative to develop a global solution for improving air quality and reducing noise in cities
08 October 2020

Ricardo supports European initiative to develop a global solution for improving air quality and reducing noise in cities

Cars are responsible for around 12% of total EU emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main greenhouse gases. The Noise and Emissions Monitoring and radical mitigation (NEMO) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, brings together research institutes, corporations, local governments and authorities from 11 Member States to develop a turnkey solution for integrating new systems into existing transport infrastructure to measure and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and noise levels.

At the centre of the solution is a new, autonomous, remote-sensing system designed by Ricardo’s technology partner, OPUS RSE. It can be fitted to tolling or access systems, and protect low emission zones and other sensitive areas from high emitters. As part of NEMO, Ricardo will analyse the measurements from the new sensing system and provide a quantitative assessment of the system from data collected during on-road testing. Ricardo’s air quality experts will lead the data analysis of road vehicle emissions during demonstration projects taking place in Florence and Madrid – the latter will employ Ricardo’s bespoke RapidAir® software to complete the air quality modelling.

Ricardo will also prepare a methodology for external cost estimations linked to pollutant and noise emissions. This will involve constructing an economic model to evaluate mitigation scenarios, which will combine data from the air quality model and supporting datasets, and then calculate costs and benefits.

The autonomous, remote-sensing system identifies polluting and/or noisy vehicles in existing traffic and makes this information available to tolling or access systems. In addition to measuring greenhouse gas emissions, the remote sensing system will also monitor other pollutants including nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) concentrations. The system can be fully integrated into road and rail infrastructure, and will have the tools available to communicate with the existing data structure of transport operators and authorities.

‘The NEMO project is key to creating healthier cities, by improving air quality and reducing noise impact. With this project, we are giving an important step towards the achievement of a European transport system that is resource-efficient, safe and climate and environmentally friendly’, says Dolores Hidalgo Barrio, Head of Circular Economy Area, Fundación CARTIF.

Sean Christiansen, Air Quality & Environment Practice Director at Ricardo, commented, ‘Ricardo is proud to support this research project by contributing the combined expertise of our remote sensing, air quality modelling and economic assessment teams. Through NEMO, we hope to pave the way towards a new generation of autonomous air quality and noise remote-sensing systems that can be deployed across European cities, thereby helping to improve the quality of life for all citizens.’

NEMO will also counter emissions using more holistic solutions, such as road texture optimisation, green barriers, photocatalytic materials and microplastics collection in the asphalt layer pore network. The solutions will be tested in several European cities to demonstrate the advantages of its urban use as a tool to monitor and identify noisy and high emitter vehicles.  

The goal is a 30% improvement in air quality for road traffic and at least a 20% reduction in noise in the target areas. For rail traffic, NEMO will also work with noise detection of individual wagons in passing trains to improve the effectiveness of tolling or banning policies for wagons with noisy, cast-iron block brakes.

The developed solutions will be demonstrated in Madrid, Spain (road traffic), Valencia, Spain (ferry port and rail cargo), Florence, Italy (road traffic) and Susteren, the Netherlands (railroad line).