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Audi wants to purify city air with filter-equipped EVs while they’re driving and charging

German automaker Audi shared that it has been working on a pilot project with supplier MANN + HUMMEL to develop a filter for the front end of EVs that can collect particulate matter while driving and charging. As Audi looks to make its production processes net-carbon-neutral, it also hopes to reduce emissions wherever possible, including air quality near busy roads.

According to Audi, 85% of fine dust in road traffic is traced back to brake, tire, and road abrasion. The smallest form of these particles can only be a few micrometers in size and easily inhaled. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended significantly lower particulate matter limits to protect human health, but many experts believe it’s impossible to comply with these new standards. Especially in congested urban areas.

As a member of Volkswagen Group, Audi has pivoted in recent years toward a focus on sustainability and currently has one of the largest all-electric lineups in the world with its e-tron range of luxury EVs. As the company works toward becoming net-carbon-neutral throughout its production processes, it is also testing new ways to lower emissions and improve air quality outside of its factories.

Today, Audi shared that it has developed an EV air filter it hopes can collect particulate matter around its given environment – not only from its own vehicle components, but from others nearby.

Audi filter

Audi is two years into pilot program for particulate air filter

Although Audi shared news of this filter project today, it explained that its pilot program began in 2020 and will run until 2024. Its design is integrated into the existing airflow through a given EV, in front of the radiator. As a result, only a few modifications are necessary, which is encouraging from a production cost perspective.

The filter process is controlled by the Audi EV’s switchable cooling air inlet, offering a mechanical function similar to a vacuum cleaner. As a result, sucked-up dust particles remain stuck in the filter while the air continues to flow through it.

The filter system works passively while the Audi EV is driving, using incoming airflow to capture harmful particles. Audi says EVs can also filter air while stationary, such as when they are charging for instance. The pilot filter system utilizes the existing process within an EV, in which a fan transports ambient air through the radiator. The fine dust filter can purify this air passing through as well, perfect for EVs charging in congested city environments where there are more cars on roads.

With two more years of testing to go, Audi’s results are already look promising to the point that the Germany automaker believes filters like this will become a legal requirement in the future. After over 31,000 miles of endurance tests with an e-tron, Audi found zero negative effects on the EV’s performance or operation, even during hot temperatures and DC fast-charging sessions. Per the release:

The system is so effective that, depending on the usage scenario, the Audi e-tron particles are completely filtered out in a highly polluted city such as Stuttgart. In even more polluted cities fine dust emissions can be actively and passively absorbed by up to three vehicles in a typical customer scenario.

Audi says the system is easy to maintain and only needs to be replaced at any other regular service interval. The filter itself currently consists of 15% recycled materials and the entire system is 60% recycled. Looking ahead, Audi is working to make the filter system more efficient with the help of MANN + HUMMEL, which includes plans for a display logic in the EV, which can allow drivers to recognize when the system is active and how much particulate matter has been filtered.

Audi will showcase the Urban Purifier at the Greentech Festival in London this week.

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Scooter Doll is a writer, designer and tech enthusiast born in Chicago and based on the West Coast. When he’s not offering the latest tech how tos or insights, he’s probably watching Chicago sports.
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