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This week on Mobility Moments, Auto Futures sits down with Stuart Walker, Head of Product Marketing at AirLabs, to discuss the company’s world-leading air quality management solutions. 

What was the idea behind AirLabs? 

AirLabs was founded in 2014 with the sole mission to provide clean air solutions that protect and save lives. We are in the middle of an air quality crisis that is destroying the lives of millions of people every year. The statistics are harrowing. According to The World Health Organisation, air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, responsible for seven million premature deaths worldwide every year and in the past year, airborne transmission of coronavirus has added to the crisis.

This global catastrophe goes to the heart of the AirLabs mission as one of the few companies that develop both air filtration and air quality monitoring systems. We wanted to be able to inform and protect and today our advanced technology not only cleans air in indoor and enclosed settings but also provides governments, businesses and communities with actionable air quality data that can help improve the health of the communities who are most at risk.

Stuart Colour Headshot

Talk to us about your AirBubbl device?

The AirBubbl is a simple solution that uses complex technology to safeguard driver and passenger health by removing more than 95% of airborne particulates, pollutants, gasses, and pathogens, including Coronavirus, from inside the cab space. Dual particle and gas filter technology in combination with AirLab’s patented air flow design floods the cab space with an excess of 30,000 litres of air every hour, surrounding the driver with a personal clean air zone.

For the bus driver compartment with a full perspex screen separating the driver from the passenger area, the effects are swift and dramatic.

Is this a direct solution for preventing the spread of COVID-19?

AirBubbl is a highly effective preventative solution that closes the gap in an already comprehensive approach to combating the spread of COVID-19. Masks, surface cleaning, fumigation, open windows all play an incredibly important part in halting the spread of the virus.

The AirBubbl directly answers the most critical aspect of contagion, and this is the aspect of the airborne pathogen. With the AirBubbl in-situ drivers are breathing clean air that is constantly being cleaned and is consistently free of the airborne virus, protecting them in their place of work, their passengers and their personal & colleague support bubbles.

Prior to the AirBubbl, do you think governments, authorities were doing enough to protect public transport employees?

The health and safety of all bus, coach, and public transport employees is of the highest priority for their employers – these are the people that keep our urban & rural communities connected day in and day out. Prior to the development of the AirBubbl, efforts have primarily, and quite rightly, been about achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by removing or simply eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether by means of electric, hybrid, or other clean fuel vehicles on our streets. Unfortunately, this has not answered the immediate question; ‘how do you protect the people who work for you day in and day out in a heavily polluted environment that will have a long-term impact on their health?’

It is only now with the introduction of the AirBubbl, that public transport operators & authorities are able to address the immediate problem of the impact of airborne pollution on driver health and wellbeing by being able to ensure that they are no longer breathing harmful levels of particle and gas pollution including PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) and importantly, the airborne coronavirus.

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Can this be implemented into other forms of public transport, such as trains?

We designed the AirBubbl specifically for the driver space in personal cars, taxi cabs, driver cab space in commercial, emergency and public transport vehicles and this also includes the train driver’s cab. Looking at the passenger space on the bus and train we have developed AiroSafe. Using the same technology as AirBubbl, AiroSafe is designed to do exactly the same thing for individual seated passengers, providing them with a personal bubble of clean air that also includes those standing in the gangway.

The city of Turlock will become the first in California to install your air-cleaning devices across its entire bus fleet. How did this come about?

AirLabs has been supporting the public transport industry with driver protection solutions in Europe and North America since the very start of the pandemic. As the risks of airborne pathogens and causes of infection became better understood, more operators looked for solutions to address these issues. AirLabs has previously supported another First Group operator in Plymouth, Minnesota, with their driver protection requirements, which Turlock’s Transit Manager picked up and reached out to AirLabs. Turlock thoroughly assessed the AirBubbl and how it could be used in their fleet and were very dynamic in their review process. As a result, the products were able to be supplied and installed very efficiently.

How easy was it to integrate AirLabs devices into Turlock’s existing fleet?

The AirBubbl is designed specifically to install seamlessly into a multitude of vehicle applications, with fast secure mounting and a range of wiring options. As such disruption and service downtime is kept to an absolute minimum in a bus fleet, which is key to maintaining the service levels. The unit is simple to use with no ongoing maintenance or management required other than a simple filter change. In fact, Turlock Transit’s manager responsible for the installations, commented that the install was straightforward and intuitive, meaning they were able to equip all of their vehicles very quickly without disruption.

In a post-COVID world, how will you evolve?

AirLabs started out tackling air pollution and this issue is still very much part of our lives. The pandemic has only served to raise awareness of this devastating health risk and coupled with concern for future airborne viruses, air quality is very much top of people’s minds. Before the pandemic, companies dedicated to the health and wellness of their employees were starting to embrace air cleaning technology to protect drivers, who are disproportionately at risk from air pollution exposure. That conversation has not stopped and many of the companies who are today implementing AirBubbl for driver protection against airborne coronavirus recognize the long-term benefits of the continued protection against pollution.

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