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‘CLEANRCAB’ – targeting in-vehicle air quality

An EU-funded project is developing an innovative air quality management system for a healthy, comfortable and safe in-vehicle environment.

Image : Peter Gutierrez
Image : Peter Gutierrez

While a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the adverse effects of outdoor pollution, interior air pollution – from the outdoor environment, interior materials, human activities and air-conditioning systems – remains a major element affecting drivers and passengers.

According to Frédéric Ladrech of French automotive supplier Valeo, the ‘CLEANRCAB’ project is developing a system based on the destruction of gaseous pollutants and the removal of fine aerosol particles. “A compact air-conditioning prototype for vehicles will be equipped with an advanced air monitoring system and enhanced driver/vehicle interfaces,” he says.

A highly capable partnership

The CLEANRCAB consortium includes eight multidisciplinary partners, comprising industrial groups, SMEs, universities and research centres. Specialisations include automotive manufacturing, air climate control, high-tech sensor technologies, environmental ergonomics and human hygiene.

Partners have undertaken a number of specific tasks:

  • Definition of in-vehicle air quality criteria for comfort, health and safety;
  • Development of advanced technologies for the efficient capture of fine aerosol particles;
  • Development of an original process for decomposing gaseous pollutants;
  • Development of a smart monitoring system based on advanced sensors able to detect and quantify air pollutants;
  • Development of an efficient, modular and integrated prototype air-conditioning system, able to detect air pollution in the cabin and eliminate noxious gases, fine particles, allergens and microbiological contaminants;
  • Development of advanced on-board passenger/vehicle interfaces for enhanced air quality awareness and preventive maintenance; and
  • Technology assessment via on-board trials.

According to Ladrech, Japan has overtaken Europe in this area in recent years. “Our new system,” he says, “will allow us to consolidate our competitive position in Europe. And this same technological approach is likely to be applicable to other types of mobile cabins, as in buses, trucks, railcars and aircraft cabins.”

Steady progress

Launched in 2002, under the European Commission’s Fifth Framework Programme for R&D, CLEANRCAB has completed its first phase of work, which entailed the elaboration of specifications as well as investigation and development of new purifying technologies. Technical specifications were based on a prior study of in-cabin air quality and on health recommendations for particle and gaseous pollutants.

The air purifying performance of the chosen technologies has now been demonstrated. In particular, high efficiency has been achieved in particle removal, even for small diameter particles (<1µm). "Partners are now moving on to the challenging task of integrating technologies into the air-conditioning system", says Ladrech. First vehicle-scale results are expected at the beginning of 2005.

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