Spectaire rolls out mobile mass spectrometer for measuring real-time emissions

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Spectaire AireCore
Spectaire releases AireCore, a mobile mass spectrometer that measures truck emissions in real time.

Spectaire Chief Technology Officer Chris Grossman says trucking doesn't get a fair shake in its environmental reputation.

“We’ve bent over backwards to help companies (like power companies and vehicle OEMs) who have reduced their emissions achieve benefit from doing so, but trucking companies have been left out in the rain,” he said. “Because their assets are on the road, because they're being driven, because of those harsh conditions that the drivers have to go through, measurement devices haven't been able to reach them.”

Spectaire is changing that with a mobile mass spectrometer that measures emissions from trucks in real time.

Though the technology is industry agnostic, Grossman said Spectaire, a relatively new company, has focused on trucking because many of the company’s employees have logistics backgrounds and aren’t a fan of trucking's poor environmental reputation.

“It is an essential service; 77% of all goods in the U.S. travel via truck. If we do anything to slow that pace down, that will affect every aspect of our life. It isn't right that all companies in the trucking industry should be painted with the same brush,” Grossman said. “But now that (an emissions measuring device) can reach them, I think what you're going to see is this whole revolution of rethinking what trucking is.

“When people see how clean the modern trucks today are, it will really change people's opinions about trucking as a high-emitting industry,” he added. “Those trucking companies that are investing in modern technology, that have good drivers driving these trucks the proper way, and servicing them appropriately, the emissions profile that they're getting is significantly less than what people think. And that's exactly the message we want to get through.”

Spectaire's AireCore, the company claims, is the first fully integrated hardware, software and data solution for real-time emissions monitoring and management. The company acquired the patent for the technology, created by MIT scientists, and began designing it to apply to trucks. The battery-powered, internet-connected mobile mass spectrometer comes in a weather-proof case smaller than the size of a carry-on suitcase that can be mounted in a temporary fixture to the back of a truck. A small probe takes a sample from the tailpipe of a truck every minute to test for molecular air composition. It measures all gases required for gHg registration/CO2e calculations; identifies sources and quantities of harmful airborne contaminates; confirms molecular signature of sample gases for forensic testing; and provides real-time feedback on air signatures.

Designed to help trucking companies monetize their emissions, it integrates to Spectaire’s emissions tracker, which is available via desktop and mobile applications and is integrated with payments processing to carbon credit exchanges.

The emissions tracker also gives trucking companies a profile of their emissions that they can share with the clients who are required to disclose their scope 3 emissions.

“What it does is it gives credit to those trucking companies that have been progressive and have invested in better trucks, better technology, better aftermarket products that reduce emissions,” Grossman said. “It's time that we treat trucking like we do other industries where we reward companies that are more progressive.”

Grossman said trucking companies that have made those investments have less emissions, but the way they are asked to determine emissions is as antiquated as a truck manufactured in 2000. It’s currently based on fuel consumption.

“In the 22 years of changes that the OEMs have made to trucks, we've improved the emissions profile 60 times, yet the calculators … keep the per gallon measurements of emissions on those two trucks the same,” he said. “We think that's something that needs to be corrected and can be corrected quite easily.”

Emissions are currently calculated, not measured, based on volume of fuel used. Based on that, if a truck uses four gallons of diesel fuel, it generates twice the emissions of a truck that uses two gallons. Grossman said that while conceptually that makes sense, practically speaking, trucks can have dramatically different emissions levels even if their fuel consumption is the same based on weather, their operating condition, the year that they were manufactured, and the technology they have on board.

With AireCore, trucking companies can effect change in their emissions with the ability to see day-to-day, hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute changes in their real emissions by measuring instead of calculating.

In addition to the data provided by AireCore, Spectaire also provides feedback on how companies can improve emissions, and Grossman said that is an important factor in competition.

“I have to differentiate myself from other trucking companies, historically the only way to do so would be to be deliver more reliable timeframes or to offer very competitive pricing,” Grossman said. “What the measurement of emissions does is it gives you another way to differentiate yourself from other trucking companies where you can say, ‘Because of the steps that we've taken to reduce emissions, our emissions footprint is one half to one third of some of our competing trucking companies … and in working with us, our reduction in emissions become your reduction in emissions.”

Angel Coker Jones is a senior editor of Commercial Carrier Journal, covering the technology, safety and business segments. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and kayaking, horseback riding, foraging for medicinal plants and napping. She also enjoys traveling to new places to try local food, beer and wine. Reach her at [email protected].