Diesel emissions study hopes to reduce unnecessary deaths


A 16-week intensive study of emissions from vehicles in Dublin has begun, with researchers hoping the findings will assist in reducing unnecessary deaths due to poor air quality.

Led by Dr Bidisha Ghosh, assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering, the RedMap project will measure and model real-world emissions from more than 150,000 vehicles at four locations.

A former project by Trinity researchers calculated that air pollution from 2015 diesel vehicles would cost more than €663m over 10 years — the damage cost of pollutants on health, materials, crops, and biodiversity, Dr Ghosh told the Irish Examiner.

The RedMap team, which comprises engineers from Trinity, UCD and Ricardo from the UK, will measure and model real-world emissions using remote sensing and portable emission measurement systems.

Dr Ghosh said emissions from real-world driving are often higher than estimated emission levels calculated based on Euro emissions standards and laboratory tests — giving rise to diesel emission scandals such as that at Volkswagen which shook the industry to its core.

“The expected reduction in emissions from road transport has not been achieved satisfactorily in Ireland or in the wider EU,” she added.

Consequently, she said, the air quality in cities has not improved as much as was originally anticipated.

“Over half a million premature deaths occurred in 2016 in the WHO European region from household and ambient air pollution. 

“Due to the high density of on-road vehicles and proximity of pollutant generation to high density urban dwellings the impact of air pollution is higher in urban areas such as Dublin, so it is imperative that projects such as RedMap accurately assess the true levels of traffic emissions,” Dr Ghosh said.

The project will be funded by the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland and co-funded by the Department of Transport.

Diesel vehicles are the largest contributor to pollutant emissions in the country, with 55% of all new vehicle purchases in 2018 using the fuel.

During the 16-week study, the real emission contribution of different vehicles will be verified, taking into consideration Euro standards, fuel type, make, and categories and vehicle modifications. 

This will also help to improve the air pollution estimates of the National Emission Inventory (NEI), the RedMap team said.

The project will be one of the first in the EU and the first in Ireland to investigate the implementation of ‘real driving emissions’ testing since the Commission introduced legislation in September 2019 on new vehicles.

The project’s ultimate goal is to generate guidelines on reducing harmful emissions on Dublin roads, the team said.

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