The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation supports a new study that will explore vehicle emissions and their environmental effects as a whole. The researchers are looking to generate reliable data about vehicle emissions to support evidence-based policymaking and help identify future strategies for reducing emissions.
Santtu Mikkonen, senior researcher at the University of Eastern Finland and Panu Karjalainen, academy postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University, have received €465,000 from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation for a new study that seeks to provide an overall picture of the pollutants generated by Finland’s vehicle fleet and their effects on the environment. They will also look into technological solutions and fuel choices that can not only reduce carbon emissions from passenger cars but also improve urban air quality.
“All motor vehicles with the internal combustion engine, even the latest models, produce particle emissions, but removing all conventional cars from the roads will not be a realistic prospect in the next few decades. Battery technology is not yet advanced enough to make the switch to fully electric cars. In fact, with current technology the carbon footprint of all-electric cars often exceeds that of petrol and diesel vehicles and hybrids, and there are ethical concerns associated with the mining of battery minerals. With new biobased fuels brought to the market to replace fossil fuels, the lifecycle of conventional cars is being extended and their carbon footprint reduced,” the researchers say.
In terms of pollutants affecting air quality, renewable fuels are not always that much better than fossil fuels, so the findings of the study will be applicable to future fuel choices. To accelerate the take-up of greener cars, an in-depth understanding of vehicle emissions and their effects is required.
“In this study, we will seek to identify the factors connected to vehicle emissions that affect human health and the environment the most as well as determine the cause-and-effect sequence whereby the combustion of a specific fuel produces pollutants and becomes a major health or environmental hazard,” Santtu Mikkonen says.
The researchers will also compare the emissions attributable to different classes of vehicles. Based on the results, it will be possible to draw up evidence-informed recommendations to steer the composition of the national fleet towards cleaner vehicles. The data that is generated during the study or is available from other sources will be analysed using sophisticated statistical techniques to ensure that all relevant information is extracted.
“The new study will combine the national fleet-wide emissions database, which is being created during my EFFi project funded by the Academy of Finland, with new targeted and comparative measurements. We will carry out measurements both under real-life conditions and in a controlled laboratory environment,” Panu Karjalainen says.
PhD, Senior Researcher Santtu Mikkonen, University of Eastern Finland, tel. +358 40 355 2319, santtu.mikkonen (a) uef.fi
DTech, Academy Postdoctoral Researcher Panu Karjalainen, Tampere University, tel. +358 45 359 2979, panu.karjalainen (a) tuni.fi