8 initiatives that could change our roads

5 minute read

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Which trailblazing schemes are changing how we think about driving – and why should we care?

  • Global emissions are a major contributor to the climate crisis 
  • Traffic management could potentially reduce urban pollution
  • Trailblazer schemes could lead the way for global initiatives 

The planet is at crisis point. Air pollution is a major concern for public and environmental health, with major changes needed to halt the damage being done. Experts are leading innovation around the world to change the way we drive and the cities we live in.

1. Adaptable batteries 

Electric cars can massively reduce emissions, but ‘range anxiety’ – concerns about how far they can travel before running out of power – still a major hurdle for many would-be adopters. Two former Imperial College London graduates are developing electric car batteries that use innovative software and allows the charger to adapt to the unique needs of the battery

2. Smog-free buildings? 

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde created the Smog Free Project to promote healthier cities. The most attention-grabbing of his innovations was the Smog Free Tower –  a seven-metre-high vacuum cleaner which turned smog into clean air using patented positive ionisation tech.

3. Running on H20 

While electric cars may be greener than ones which run on fossil fuels, manufacturing their batteries has an environmental impact. But some experts have optimised the process to cut carbon emissions to zero. Hydrogen fuel cells uses hydrogen gas to create electricity, producing H20 rather than carbon. Schemes around the world are looking at the power of hydrogen-fuelled vehicles – Bulgaria is hoping to open multiple fuelling stations of this kind in the near future.

Schemes around the world are looking at hydrogen-fuelled vehicles

4. Air pollution big data 

Bioengineering graduates may have found a way to measure the levels of air pollution with data capture. They’ve created low-cost, stick-on sensors which make light work of measuring the quality of air in a city. Long term, this could mean massive amounts of data could be collected through an  app – quickly highlighting the worst-affected areas. 

5. App-based pooling schemes  

The popularity of carpooling  has led to similar solutions being provided in the sharing economy. Apps can allow people to hire scooters and bikes from practically anywhere. These systems – one of which has been piloted by software firm Bird –  use GPS technology to enable users to pick-up and drop-off wherever they are.

6. Smart parking and traffic management 

One avoidable cause of carbon emissions is ‘idling’ – when a car’s engine is left running unnecessarily, at red lights or otherwise. Punitive schemes which fine drivers for idling may soon become law.  Many manufacturers have also implemented stop-start technology on their vehicles to prevent cars idling at traffic lights. 

Drivers may soon be fined for idling

7. Flying cars 

While flying cars might still be seen as a bit ‘out there’, research is being carried out to understand their environmental benefits. Reports suggest electric flying cars could reduce congestion, improve safety and massively reduce carbon emissions. Recent developments include Porsche partnering with Boeing on an electric flying car. More prototypes are already in the works and investment is increasing – though there’s still a long way to go. 

8. Zero emissions cities 

You’ve heard of low emissions zones, now meet the zero emission city. Following improvements in congestion and air quality due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, the transport secretary announced a plan to have one UK city centre serve as a ‘showpiece’ zero emissions city, meaning only bikes, pedestrians and electric vehicles  would be allowed in. Councillors in York have supported a bid, which could make York our very first zero emissions city.


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