A&WMA ACE 2020: Driving Clean Energy in the Automotive Industry

From June 30 to July 2, the Clarity team participated in the Air & Waste Management Association’s 113th Annual Conference & Exhibition. Titled “Gateway to Innovation,” this speaker series highlighted the major threats to air quality, the current research being done to solve this aggravating issue, and what future projects will look like to manage air quality. The conference was supposed to be held in sunny San Francisco, but it was conducted virtually due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite not being able to attend ACE 2020 in person, the Clarity team was delighted to virtually take part in this important conference. We believe coming together with other dedicated people within the air quality industry is necessary to making impactful strides toward our shared goal of clean air for all. 

What is the Air & Waste Management Association?

The Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) was founded in 1907 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on bringing together environmental professionals from around the world to grow knowledge and expertise in sustainable practices. The A&WMA’s primary mission is to benefit society.

Additionally, The A&WMA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition (ACE) is a major conference on environmental and global development. Held every year, ACE is a congregation of environmental professionals seeking to further environmental technologies. Clarity was proud to be an exhibitor of ACE 2020 this year.

Check out our exhibition video here

ACE 2020

This year’s keynote session focused on what environmental challenges the transportation industry faces. Four speakers from four different fields came together  to offer their perspectives on the goals and solutions to reach a zero emissions future. The speakers were: Severin Borenstein of the Haas School of Business, Delphine Hou of California Independent System Operator, Laurie Shelby of Tesla, Inc., and Shane Stephens of FirstElement Fuel, Inc.. Each presenter outlined their challenges, development plans, and overall commitment to sustainability. 

Tesla, Inc. was likely the most recognizable contributor to the keynote session. An electric vehicle and renewable energy powerhouse, Tesla is focused on reducing carbon emissions to zero and integrating electric cars into the automotive industry. Laurie Shelby, the Vice President of Environmental, Safety, and Health performance at Tesla, offered her company’s take on being a pioneer in the electric vehicle field. Tesla’s focus is on renewable energy and making electric vehicles more affordable for the average citizen. However, building the necessary infrastructure is a major roadblock. Shelby reaffirmed Tesla’s commitment to building a healthier, more sustainable world.

FirstElement Fuel, Inc. also gave valuable insight on sustainable vehicles. FirstElement Fuel builds hydrogen gas stations that use True Zero, an eco-efficient, hydrogen fuel. FirstElement Fuel has created a network of hydrogen gas stations across California to fully enable the adoption of clean-energy vehicles. Shane Stephens, founder and chief development officer of FirstElement Fuel, believes in creating a new-generation automotive industry focused on clean energy. He is currently committed to achieving scale, establishing an attractive business case, and maintaining aggressive renewable content. FirstElement Fuel hopes to do work outside of California and expand its clean energy movement.

Why does this matter to air pollution?

The shift to electric and clean energy vehicles is one of the most impactful ways to mitigate air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the largest contributor to anthropogenic GHG emissions. Transportation accounted for 28% of United States GHG emissions in 2018, and 59% of those transportation emissions were produced by light-duty vehicles. 



Figure 1. United States Environmental Protection Agency.


The charts above show the automotive industry’s effect on air pollution. Evidently, cars are one of the primary contributors to GHG emissions. When a car burns fuel, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter are immediately released into the atmosphere. These emissions increase GHG, ozone production, and overall pollution across the world. Vehicle exhaust is a primary pollutant, meaning it is directly emitted from a source. This pollution can travel over great and small distances and can be directly breathed in by an individual.

At Clarity, we work on measuring emissions, specifically nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, to enable cities and communities in implementing tangible clean air policies. Transitioning the auto industry to clean and renewable energy vehicles is a major step to clean air.

Clarity’s Actionable Data 

Figure 2. Ramboll Shair model of PM2.5 concentrations in Richmond, California. Based on readings from Clarity’s stationary monitoring devices.


Drawing data from our 50 device network in Richmond, California with Groundwork Richmond, the above image is a modeled snapshot of PM2.5  in Richmond, California taken on June 20, 2020 at approximately 1 a.m.. Shair, an air quality modeling and management group born from global engineering consultant firm Ramboll, developed the model based on readings from Clarity’s stationary monitoring devices. Read more about the air quality monitoring project in Richmond on Shair’s blog here.

The two main highways that go through Richmond are I-580 and I-80, which are located in the green shades in the image above. This snapshot shows how levels of particulate matter are higher on these highways than in the more spread out, residential neighborhoods. The increased particulate matter emissions from automobiles are captured by Clarity and Shair data, down to the block-by-block changes in minutes.

The next step to this data is finding ways to measure the impact of sustainability initiatives within the transportation industry. As we transition to electric vehicles, what are the impacts on air pollution along routes once defined by traffic pollution? When private and public players advocate for certain ideas - electric vehicle production, hydrogen fuel innovation, industry regulations - what kind of tangible impact do they assert into the local communities and economies they intend to serve? This evidence-based approach gives leaders the confidence and ammunition to direct change.

Conclusion

According to the EPA, the average passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Companies like FirstElement Fuel and Tesla are seeking to change the narrative of the automotive industry, bringing new ideas, machinery, and energy to support sustainable practices. Transitioning to clean-energy vehicles will indisputably mitigate air pollution and reduce GHG emissions. Decreasing emissions of the automotive industry is essential to clean air. 

ACE 2020 was a great experience for the entire Clarity team. Beyond the keynote session, the conference included sessions on COVID-19 and air quality, wildfires, the EPA in California, and much more. Collaborating with experts from around the world on varying issues within the air quality industry is a valuable component of Clarity’s efforts to learn and align on how we can further support our partners and customers. Events like ACE 2020 further Clarity’s commitment to clean air and work toward a healthy future for everyone. 

References

Bronson, Linda C. “How Much Air Pollution Comes from Cars?” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 29 Aug. 2012.

https://auto.howstuffworks.com/air-pollution-from-cars.htm

“Experience ACE 2020 Online!” Air & Waste Management Association.

www.awma.org/.

“Fast Facts on Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 16 July 2019. www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-greenhouse-gas-emissions.

“Gaining Clarity into Low-Cost Sensors.” Ramboll Shair, 26 Feb. 2020, https://ramboll-shair.com/gaining-clarity-into-low-cost-sensors/

“Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 10 May 2018. https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle


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