Electric vehicles are considered locally greener in terms of CO2 and other emissions compared to combustion-powered cars, which means they are cleaner during operation. The electric energy for EVs doesn’t always come from greener sources, though, but that's a topic for a different conversation. Regardless of the engine type, however, all vehicles generate fine dust from their brakes and tires and from road abrasion. Is there a solution to reduce the amount of particulate pollution? Not yet but Audi is working on it.

The German automaker has a new pilot project developed with parts supplier Mann + Hummel and the two companies are designing a new particulate filter for electric cars that collects particulate matter from the environment. The filter works similarly to stationary air filtration systems for houses, though being installed in the front end of a car means it can collect the particulates generated by that same car.

Launched in 2020, the pilot project will run through 2024 when the results will be evaluated. The filter is mounted to the vehicle’s existing frame in the front fascia in front of the radiator, which means only minimal modifications to the design are needed. The filter is controlled by a switchable cooling air inlet, which keeps the fine dust particles stuck in the filter. Audi has been testing the new technology on E-Tron test vehicles.

The system functions in two modes. While the vehicle is in motion, it passively filters when the air flows through the filter system and the smallest particles are captured. During stationary charging, the fan that is already mounted at the front end of the vehicle conveys ambient air through the filter. Audi explains the second mode is ideal for use in urban areas while charging at public stations.

Initial tests so far have shown that the filter has no negative effect on the way the electric E-Tron test vehicles are operating after about 31,068 miles (50,000 kilometers) of endurance tests. Evaluations in the city of Stuttgart in Germany have also shown the E-Tron trial vehicle has been able to completely filter out its own particles. The German automaker is now working with its partner Mann + Hummel to connect the filtration system with existing sensors such as weather stations to make the technology more efficient.

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