Field study of air change and flow rate in six automobiles.

Abstract

UNLABELLED For many people, a relatively large proportion of daily exposure to a multitude of pollutants may occur inside an automobile. A key determinant of exposure is the amount of outdoor air entering the cabin (i.e. air change or flow rate). We have quantified this parameter in six passenger vehicles ranging in age from 18 years to <1 year, at three vehicle speeds and under four different ventilation settings. Average infiltration into the cabin with all operable air entry pathways closed was between 1 and 33.1 air changes per hour (ACH) at a vehicle speed of 60 km/h, and between 2.6 and 47.3 ACH at 110 km/h, with these results representing the most (2005 Volkswagen Golf) and least air-tight (1989 Mazda 121) vehicles, respectively. Average infiltration into stationary vehicles parked outdoors varied between approximately 0 and 1.4 ACH and was moderately related to wind speed. Measurements were also performed under an air recirculation setting with low fan speed, while airflow rate measurements were conducted under two non-recirculate ventilation settings with low and high fan speeds. The windows were closed in all cases, and over 200 measurements were performed. The results can be applied to estimate pollutant exposure inside vehicles. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS There is increasing recognition of the often disproportionately large contribution of in-vehicle pollutant exposures to overall measures. This has highlighted the need for accurate and representative quantification of determinant factors to facilitate exposure estimation and mitigation. The ventilation rate in a vehicle cabin is a key parameter affecting the transfer of pollutants from outdoors to the cabin interior, and vice-versa. New data regarding this variable are presented here, and the results indicate substantial variability in outdoor air infiltration into vehicles of differing age. The efficacy of simple measures to reduce outdoor air infiltration into 'leaky' vehicles to increase occupant protection would be a worthwhile avenue of further research.

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