As someone who has spent half his working life pushing a cab around London, the vehicle’s contribution to air pollution has not escaped my attention.
So when coming across this interesting research I just had to investigate it further. The findings discovered that tyres wear out from friction every time we brake, accelerate or turn a corner (including unexpected tight u-turns by cabs), and the particles become airborne affecting our lungs.
The Tyre Collective monitored the amount of tyre wear produced by a No. 9 London bus running between Hammersmith and Aldwych the route called ‘London’s oldest existing bus route’, which has its origins going as far back as 1851. At a distance of just over 5 miles, each journey on average released 4.65g per journey and a total of 65g a day.
The particles become airborne affecting our lungs, more are swept into our waterways and oceans eventually entering our food chain.
Tyre wear is the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our oceans after single-use plastic and accounts for up to 50 per cent of air particulate emission from road transport. Clearly, this is of interest to anyone driving a cab.
With the objective of Transport for London to only allow electric public service vehicles one would have thought lower tailpipe emissions will mitigate the majority of pollution on London’s roads.
Now here’s the problem, tyre wear is projected to increase due to the added battery weight and torque.
The Tyre Collective came up with an ingenious solution mitigating emissions by capturing tyre wear at the source. The carbon in rubber particles is charged as they tear off the tyre, not dissimilar to rubbing a balloon against a sweater, these charged particles under 50 microns are small enough to be captured and reused in new tyre walls, along with other exciting applications.
The Tyre Collective device is positioned close to where the tyre meets the road. Consulting with the Imperial Department of Aeronautics the optimum position was identified to take advantage of airflow around a spinning wheel.
The device currently captures 60 per cent of all airborne particles, it can only be a matter of refining this device and retro-fitting it to vehicles to improve London’s air quality.