Air pollution is severely dangerous on roads therefore riding in a car in a city is kind of like being trapped in a polluted bubble when you are on the road.
The air pollution gets multiplied if you smoke in the car (even with the windows down), have pets or driving in areas with very high AQI levels.
So, what do you need to do when you feel the need to breathe fresh and clean air?
In this article, we will try to dig into details and try to find out ways so that you can solve air pollution issues in your car.
Being a manufacturer of high quality HEPA filters and Car AC HEPA filters, we will like to bring in the benefits of using high efficiency filters in your car.
What is Car Air Pollution & What Are Sources
Car air pollution can come from many different sources. Here we are trying to show some common sources of car air pollution:
Perfume, Odors like body odor, shoes etc.
Different kind of vehicle exhaust entering in the car
Various physical particulate matter like PM2.5, PM1.0, dust, pollen, bacteria and mold.
Viruses & biological contaminants
We should know clearly that it is difficult to remove gases from the air and most of the above stated items are gases. In case you are using an air purifier in the car, such gases are difficult to remove because of the small size of the car air purifier. We try to go into detail in this study on air purifiers and guides on how to effectively remove pollutants from the air inside the car.
The larger particulate matter are PM2.5, PM1.0, dust, pet dander, allergens etc. and these are quite large in size if we compare them against gases. To remove such pollutants, you need a HEPA air filter as the solutions for gas removal are not effective. Such pollutants are best trapped in a net like the fibers of a HEPA filter. Whereas gases are often adsorbed or decomposed using different other kinds of technologies such as carbon filter, anion discharge units etc.
So, you have to understand what your car air purifier needs to work on before you decide to buy one for your car.
How Can You Clean The Air In Your Car
There are 3 key methods to clean the air in most of the environment. This can be applied to Cars, Residence or Office.
Control the Sources – Remove different sources of air pollution. But when you are in a car and driving on the road, you don’t have any control on outside air pollution and you can’t remove them.
Ventilation – You can do this by circulating outside air through rolling down windows or allowing outside air to come inside through car vents. But when you’re on the road and driving, you will never want to allow the most dangerously polluted air to come inside the car.
An Air Cleaner – Installing a device with a high efficiency filter or replacing your car ac filter with an HEPA Filter.
Out of the points given in the list above, ventilation or controlling sources are not the choices because you drive in the middle of the road where other cars and city traffic is throwing most of the pollution in your car.
The objective of your Car’s AC Filter, which is fitted in your car cabin, is to ensure safety of your car AC and definitely not yours.
In almost all cars, these Car AC Filter is a low efficiency pleated filter. This filter will trap large particles so that the operation of your car AC is good and large particles do not enter inside the car cooling system, which can damage it.
So, Car AC Filter in your car will filter only the biggest pollen or dust particles but not the small micro particles that you gasp while you breathe inside your car.
In addition to the above, if you want to remove fumes, new car odor or emissions from vehicle exhaust, you may have to use a large bag of activated charcoal for a good absorption.
It was a general thought that placing a high efficiency filter would reduce the airflow and push down the performance of car air conditioning. But after doing various experiments, we have created the best blend of filter media and technology so that air flow is not impacted and you get clean air through the AC vents in your car.
But as we said, we would like to evaluate different solutions and understand their advantages and limitations.
It requires a strong fan to create air-flow to move air through the high efficiency filters and it also needs enough power, which is normally not available through car cigarette lighter.
How Car Air Purifiers Work
While riding a car, you like to add the best of accessories such as a great music system, lights, seat covers etc. but what about the best air in the car? Interested to know more? If yes, let’s read further.
Car Air Purifier works on simple recirculation methods. I.e. It sucks dirty air, filters it and gives it back to the car air. Only difference is that these are smaller in size and placed at different locations based on the size and design of the car air purifier. They use car power sources such as cigarette lighter.
Most common technologies for the car air purification are:
Negative ion generator – also referred to as a car air ioniser.
A Car Cabin filter made by HEPA media
Activated Carbon filter
Negative Ion Generator
The negative ionizer works on an active air purification method. i.e. it emits negative ions into the air and does not filter or capture any particulate matter. This is a normal electronic device, which is plugged into a cigarette lighter.
The idea behind the concept is that negative ions charge air particles such as dust, pollen or mold spores so that they stick to different surfaces and move out of breathable air.
However, this is not effective as it does not work on the natural circulation of air and it also produces Ozone which is harmful for regular exposure. This challenge becomes strong as you’re always in a high ozone formation area, which is in sun-light and high temperature. We should avoid breathing in ozone.
The best technology to combat airborne particulate matter is a HEPA air filter and it is also the safest method to purify air. But what about the HEPA filters used in normal car air purifiers? The biggest problem is that they are much too small to be effective and/or are normally not true HEPA as the fan capacity is limited and does not generate strong air to flow-in through the filter.
For better cleaning, you need a bigger HEPA filter and higher filter efficiency. Small and lower efficiency filters are no good to clean the air in your car and they also get choked very fast which results in going back to the polluted air. The bigger the filter is and the higher efficiency it has the better it will do in cleaning the air.
Now-a-days, many car manufacturers have started either replacing car cabin filters with a HEPA filter or providing an air purifier within the car functionality. It seems that they are doing the right thing because a good filter with H12 grade ensures low resistance and provides clean air within the car. For pollutants like cigarette smoke removal, the HEPA air filter will remove the smoke particles but not the smoke odors, for which you may need an additional charcoal bag in your car..
Activated Carbon Filter or Charcoal Bag
This can be a filter or a charcoal bag which is good in removing many of the gases associated with smoke removal and car fumes. It needs strong air flow and a large quantity of the charcoal or activated carbon to remove such pollutants in the car. The problem here is that it requires a good amount (more than a pound in a car) as well as a good air flow. The car air purifiers we have seen do not have strong enough motors or enough carbon to remove the pollutants.
In addition, you simply cannot put a container of active carbon in your car and expect it to clean the air.
Furthermore, carbon is not effective for all gases. You often will want additional gas filter media or a treated carbon to have a more complete solution.
For HEPA and activated carbon to work you need more power and you don’t have that with the cigarette adaptor or enough space in the car for an air cleaner that is effective.
An ozone generator, as the name suggests, generates ozone to kill pathogens in the environment. Ozone can be effective in gas removal but it is terrible to breathe in. And extremely bad if you have some kind of respiratory disease such as asthma etc.
Under normal circumstances, car air purifiers are not regulated like room air purifiers for ozone. Therefore, you may end up in using a device which generate enormous amounts of ozone.
Air freshener only camouflage the odor present in the car. i.e. it does not remove any odors but rather adds its own odor so you do not notice the odor you are wanting to avoid.
An air freshener introduces gases into your car. It’s not an ideal solution since you breathe in whatever they give off.
Do Car Air Purifiers Work?
Well, there is clear proof that a car air purifier works but you should do something to ensure that the air you breathe inside your car is free from micro pollutants.
The problems are real, however the solutions simply are not effective. Electronic air purifiers may produce ozone and are not recommended for your car unless it is equipped with valid certifications which declares ozone creation doses.
However, there is one solution we have seen in most of the upcoming cars and which is used by NASA as well. i.e. HEPA Filters. You can just replace your car AC filter with a high quality HEPA filter. This will enable your car AC to work like an air purifier and you will breathe clean air while you are driving in city’s hustle bustle.
Poor air quality and pollution in cars is currently a serious concern. And one that is challenging to address since it requires the removal of both gases and particulates.
The air filters that come installed in cars are designed to safeguard your car air conditioning system and not the occupants of the car.
The car air purifiers on the market in my opinion are more gimmicky than real solutions and in few cases can actually pollute your car.
At this point, we see a simple solution by replacing your existing car ac filter by a HEPA filter and in other words, current products are a waste of money.