The University of Leicester researchers have designed and installed special sensors into electric vehicles (EVs) that can measure pollutant concentrations around the city.
The information from these sensors will provide insight into the quality of the air people inhale in polluted urban areas, researchers said.
"Electric vehicles are part of the solution to urban air quality issues. A mobile air quality monitoring platform, such as a specially designed electric car, is highly valuable to the scientific study of urban air quality," Dr Roland Leigh from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Leicester, who is leading the project, said.
"By monitoring air quality as a seamless part of our daily transport system, we are providing a cost-effective way to help inform future policy and operational systems," said Leigh.
Zero emission vehicles such as electric cars are vital in measuring the quality of air in urban environments, as they do not add further emissions of nitrogen dioxide and other key pollutants, which will allow for a more accurate reading of gathered data, said Leigh.
"It is important that we establish how polluted our cities are based on current transportation methods and develop new ways in which we can travel to enable more sustainable cities in the future," Leigh said.
"In order to help bridge the gap between road users and the uptake of EVs, there needs to be a greater understanding of the environmental and economic advantages zero emission vehicles can bring," said Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex, UK's First Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies.
"We have no doubt the results of this project will add to the public understanding of air pollution and further encourage the adoption of zero emissions vehicles," said Evans.