Pollutionwatch: how wheel misalignment can affect air quality


Car exhaust pipes will become a thing of the past but, as Will Hicks from Imperial College London told me: “The air pollution from road, brake and tyre wear is here to stay.”

Increasingly heavy cars, partially due to there being more SUVs and more electric vehicles, will mean more particle pollution from road surfaces and tyres. Already these account for more pollution than the emissions from the engines and as much as 28% of the microplastics entering our oceans.

The UK tyre retailer Protyre has found that 48% of cars have misaligned wheels. Data from Bridgestone suggests that 2.5 degrees of wheel misalignment causes 20% more tyre wear and increases fuel use, too.

As Mark Longden from RL Automotive explained, “ensuring proper wheel alignment could help to clean our air and decrease carbon emissions. The loss of fuel economy could be the equivalent of GBP5 on a tank of fuel or several kilometres of lost electric vehicle range.”

Longden is leading the Innovate UK clean air project to attach sensors to vehicle wheels to detect misalignment right after hitting a pothole or kerb. Adding wheel tracking to annual MOT tests could also reduce air pollution.


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