Audi wants to fit electric cars with front-mounted particulate filters that clean up the surrounding air as you drive – or sit still while charging.
The Ingolstadt brand is working with supplier Mann+Hummel on the filtration device, designed to remove tiny micrometre-scale particles caused by brake, tire, or road abrasion.
The World Health Organisation recently outlined the need for significantly lower particulate matter limits to protect people’s health.
The filter is integrated into the car’s existing airflow in front of the radiator so that only a few simple modifications to the car are needed.
The filter is controlled via the switchable cooling air inlet and its mechanical function is comparable to that of a vacuum cleaner: the fine dust particles remain stuck in the filter and the air can still flow through it.
While driving it passively filters by means of the movement of the vehicle. During stationary charging, a fan built into every Audi EV pushes ambient air through the radiator and spits out oxygen sans harmful particulates.
Audi’s pilot project has been underway since 2020 and will run for four years.
After more 50,000 kilometres of tests in an Audi e-tron, the filters have been found to have no negative effect on the operation of the EV, including on hot summer days or during fast charging, Audi claims.
The filter must only be replaced at each regular service, the company adds.
Audi is working with Mann+Hummel to connect with existing sensors such as weather stations, and the two also plan to develop a display logic in the vehicle letting occupants see when the system is active and how much air has been filtered.
Project Manager Fabian Groh said “we anticipate it will also become a legal requirement in the future”.
We’ve heard of similar features before. For example, the Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell car cleaned up more than 900kg of air in a month during tests back in 2018.