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Valeo equips buses with COVID-killing air-sterilization system

In a single airflow cycle the system eliminates more than 95% of viruses as well as any bacteria or mold present in the circulating air.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we live our daily lives as we take various safety precautions to social distance and protect ourselves and others from the virus. Engineers from Valeo have worked to restore some normalcy to one aspect of people’s lives: public transit. The France-based supplier has developed an air-sterilization system for bus and motor coach cabins that eliminates, upon activation and in a single airflow cycle, more than 95% of viruses, including COVID-19, as well as any bacteria or mold present in the air circulating in the cabin.

After a short development time of a few months, Valeo specifically focused on mass transit as the first application for the new air-sterilization system, said Guillaume Devauchelle, Valeo Group Vice-President of Innovation and Scientific Development. The company is concerned with both passenger safety and restoring confidence in those who use mass transit, but Devauchelle also cited the environment as a consideration in developing the system. “It’s not only a safety issue, but also I would say a social issue because not choosing buses means you use your personal car and then you add additional environmental issues to this health issue,” he told Truck & Off-Highway Engineering during a call from Valeo’s office in Paris.

Regardless of the source of infection, whether inside or outside the vehicle, Valeo claims its modules are effective throughout the vehicle’s journey with passengers onboard. The devices are available as a standalone box solution, which weighs about 5 to 7 kg (11 to 15 lb), or they can be directly integrated into a vehicle’s air-conditioning system. According to Devauchelle, the system is not suitable for passenger cars but is not that big for a bus. “It is possible to fit it into any bus, depending on the various bus sizes whether large or small, we can adapt the size to fit.”

The system uses ultraviolet (UV) light technology similar to that used in medical and hospital facilities. The high-performance UV-C lamps emit a wavelength of 254 nm, a level where the highest germicidal effect is achieved, Devauchelle said. The UV rays work as both a bactericide and a germicide and can kill microbes such as viruses and pathogens. The rays stop these microbes from spreading and can be used as an alternative to other disinfection methods, avoiding the use of chemical products. Devauchelle noted that this device only purifies air and not surfaces.

Valeo’s solution integrates the UV-C light, which is provided by “a global expert,” and a “light labyrinth” that blocks the UV rays from spreading outside of the 850- x 350- x 110-mm (33.5- x 13.8- x 4.3-in) metal box, ensuring that passengers are never exposed to the light. Only air circulating in the ventilation box, which is ceiling mounted, is purified by the light. The Institute of Medical Virology at the Goethe University Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, confirmed in July the technology’s virucidal efficacy.

The system recently was integrated as original equipment in vehicles manufactured by a Brazilian bus maker. It also can be retrofitted on existing buses or motor coaches with or without air-conditioning, Devauchelle said. Valeo plans to bring these systems to markets in Europe, the Americas and Asia. The supplier also is working to roll out this technology to passenger vehicles. “We have almost every car maker requesting this device, but it will take some time to develop it in new platforms,” he said.

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