Electric mobility and “silent” asphalt with recycled materials against noise pollution: two European projects in Italy

22 Apr , 2021 - News

The LIFE Nereide and LIFE E-Via projects, funded by the European Union through the Life programme, are studying a response to noise pollution caused by traffic in urban centres, which affects 100 million people across Europe every year.

An ideal city would surely have quiet streets, travelled by electric cars capable of improving not only the quality of the air we breathe, thanks to lower CO2 emissions, but also the acoustic impact of everyday journeys.

Two European projects financed by the LIFE programme, Life Nereide and Life E-Via, are currently under way in Italy. They aim to provide solutions to noise pollution, one of the environmental problems that most affects the health and quality of life of the European population. Although it is often underestimated, it is a problem that “makes itself felt” and this is why our country is deploying its best expertise to find solutions to curb its effects. The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates that more than 100 million people in Europe are exposed to excessive noise levels over a long period of time, with serious health consequences. The situation is even more complicated in urban areas, where traffic noise is more intense and harmful, affecting the health of almost one in three people. It has been estimated by the EEA that night-time road noise pollution, which is even more harmful to health, affects at least 20% of the European population living in urban areas.

So how can we safeguard citizens’ physical and mental well-being from the risks caused by noise pollution? Some of the most effective actions introduced are the introduction of low-noise road surfaces, also using recycled materials, and exploiting the positive impact of a progressive spread of electric mobility. Life Nereide and Life E-Via are two projects aimed to analyse the possible benefits of an increasing diffusion of these solutions. They are part of Life, the programme for actions in favour of the environment and climate, which can provide added value for the whole of Europe.

The Life Nereide project, which is coming to its conclusion, has led to the definition of the best solutions for producing extremely quiet and sustainable pavements, capable of effectively reducing traffic noise by up to 5 dB thanks to the intelligent use of recycled materials such as recycled crumb rubber and milled asphalt, i.e. asphalt removed from old pavements.

The project is led by the Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering of the University of Pisa and involves the Region of Tuscany, Arpat – Regional Agency for Environmental Protection of Tuscany, the Belgian Research Centre BRRC, IDASC-CNR and Ecopneus as partners. Thanks to the project, 12 different bituminous mixtures have been defined and used on various roads in Tuscany; acoustic measurements were then carried out on the pavements and surveys were conducted on the population, to find out the concrete effects on those living near high traffic roads.

While the Life Nereide Project focused on the study of “silent” road surfaces, the Life E-Via Project tackles the problem by focusing on the potential use of electric and hybrid vehicles, studying the tyre-road interaction to identify and implement noise mitigation measures, through the optimisation of both the tyres of electric vehicles and the road surface, also through the development of a new “silent” asphalt designed with an approach similar to that adopted by the LIFE Nereide project.

The project involves the Municipality of Florence as Coordinator, and Continental, iPOOL sr,l, Gustave Eiffel University, Mediterranea University of Reggio Calabria and Vie.en.ro.se Ingegneria S.r.l. as partners.

On 14 May, a webinar will be held on the topic of noise pollution, promoted by the LIFE E-Via project in which the representatives of the Life Nereide project will also participate to share experiences and results.

Silent road surfaces and the potential of electric mobility can therefore be the key to tackling the problem of noise pollution. Sustainability is a key element of both projects, as are the technical and scientific skills that Italy has to deploy, thanks in part to the Life Nereide and Life E-Via projects, to raise awareness among an increasing number of people about the negative health effects of noise pollution and to promote effective, environmentally friendly solutions.