Expert article

AirQon - Air Quality through EV Battery Connectivity Breda, The Netherlands Air quality

Edit 21 February 2020 by Javier Leiva

From well-to-wheel, to EV-to-event

A new paradigm in improving local air quality
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AIRQON: A new paradigm in improving local air quality

A wave of awareness about decarbonization and sustainability is surrounding us, in a way that none of our everyday processes is unaffected by this. From minimizing the use of plastics and encouraging reuse, to maximizing the use of renewable energy sources for transport are some relevant examples that we can perceive in our day-to-day life.

In these times of strong concern for the fight against climate change, leading world-class influencers and decision-makers attend large conventions, such as the recent COP25 in Madrid, Spain, causing a great impact on media. However, this push unfortunately often translates into high-level, idle declarations of interest, lacking actions and mechanisms able to guarantee that those ambitious objectives may be accomplished.

Well, not entirely... One vibrant, livable city, Breda, in the Netherlands, holds out against that tendency with an exemplary leadership in AIRQON.

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 “We hear that events are looking for opportunities to make their event greener”, says Rozendal, “and they are very enthusiastic about AIRQON because in a very simple manner it is possible to have green energy”.

The city of Breda is full of events, hosting nearly 200 every year. This is the target of AIRQON: greener festivals, involving an active participation of the people, with the help of disruptive technology ready to be demonstrated and put into practice. Therefore, Breda boosts public‑private collaboration, by diving deep in technical development and generating a high impact thanks to its role of first mover.

Tom Rozendal, Project Manager of AIRQON, from Breda Municipality, highlights that “Breda is very active at initiating new solutions for greener events”. An example of this is the central park of Breda, where a system is available to supply green energy for events. Also, Breda participates in European projects where innovation is the key word. “The aim of the city is to be CO2 neutral in 2044”, points Rozendal.

Instead of legislating to limit or simply prohibit, Breda leads this project by pushing the implementation of environmentally friendly solutions. That is, first, test and validate AIRQON with event organizers, and then, based on that experience, write and develop air quality policy, tackling a global challenge from a local, effective perspective.

An electric vehicle (EV) is, literally, a battery on wheels. AIRQON uses them as a power source, since a connected EV can provide up to 4 kW, enough to power stands, a stage or a middle-sized exhibition space. To do this, the car is plugged into a device, called V2Box, specially designed by SBPF, which manages that injection of power from the vehicle. This mode of operation keeps similarities with vehicle-to-grid applications, but off-grid, that is, isolated from the network, in this case.

This configuration is adaptable to provide upper power provision. At the same time, a specific software constantly controls the entire process by matching the energy demand of the event with the availability of battery power, since more cars connected may power bigger stands and stages.

AIRQON, therefore, comes to answer the question: are EVs a competitive alternative to diesel generators in events, when the network is not available?

End user engagement is therefore essential for AIRQON, which is at the same time one of the most defining attributes of a living lab. This challenge of engagement is, in fact, double, since not only participation of EVs are needed, but also of event organizers. At the same time, the former presents a high heterogeneity – some of the participants are owners, others are users of car sharing services; variable battery availability due to factors such as distance from event to home or battery nominal capacity, etc. – while the latter are responsible of the proper performance of the event.

A web platform and a mobile app allow these parties to be connected, disseminating the calendar of events and letting participants to plan their needs and availabilities. Furthermore, AIRQON is especially designed for events organized by third parties, however Breda Municipality equally takes part here in coordination with them. This support has a capital importance, avoiding event organizers to feel threatened and letting them appreciate the positive image projection. Breda, as any other city hosting AIRQON events, and their citizens benefit from a cleaner air and lower local pollutant emissions, at the same time EV participants are rewarded with entrance tickets, discount or gifts, apart from the satisfaction of belonging to such a smart, collective initiative.

Wait a moment ... but does this really work? The University of Utrecht works specifically on it. Measurement campaigns have been carried out before and after AIRQON is launched, in addition to other measurements when events take place and when they do not. All these analysis will take into account emissions of all kinds, due to events or not, but to any other existing source in the environment such as transport, as well as lots of aspects affecting air quality, like local weather conditions. All this data obtained will be rigorously studied to assess how effectively AIRQON impacts.

“Farming activities and traffic road are the main sources of emissions in the area of Breda”, explains Rozendal. He concludes that “in addition to Nitrogen Dioxides, other pollutants such as CO2 require special attention from a local approach, as we proposed with AIRQON, since Breda aims to be CO2 neutral by 2044”, Rozendal concludes.

It is noteworthy that a project of these characteristics, firmly technology-driven and end user centered, is so strongly oriented to be scaled-up. Not as to be considered for the next steps after being completed – usually, lamentably, rather as a formalism than as a reality –, but as a phase during the development of the project.

Although there are limited technology providers and demand at the moment, AIRQON is not only designed for Breda, not even for the Netherlands. Until May 2020, AIRQON will have been implemented in more than 30 events. Afterwards, AIRQON is taking part in 25 events in Breda, including a stage of the Vuelta a España cycling tour, in addition to 20 events in Netherlands and 5 abroad until 2021. These figures will be a remarkable achievement for this project, with a global vocation for sharing experience and best practices.

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