The air we breathe is polluted. That’s the hard inescapable fact that Airlabs wishes to change with its solutions and technology that are designed to literally clean the air. The methods use a combination of ‘atmospheric chemistry and airflow engineering’ alongside state-of-the-art nano carbon filters that effectively remove 95% of Nitrogen Dioxide together with other pollutants. The Great British Fleet Event sat down for a chat with Mike Miles, head of fleet at Airlabs.
Mike’s background has been in automotive for the past ten years, starting out in retail sales for BMW, before moving into the B2B sector in 2011 where he worked for Eurotaxglass providing OEMs and dealer groups with RV data and forecasting tools.
Mike then moved to work with other OEMs, with both Vauxhall and Fiat Chrysler Group providing fleet operators and the leasing sector with vehicles and support to their business operations.
Despite this heavily vehicle-centric background, Mike joined Airlabs to look after the fleet proposition for Airbubbl – the firm’s proprietary in-vehicle air purification system – that creates a clean, healthy environment for drivers and their passengers.
What was your first car?
My first car was a 1992 Honda Civic, purchased from my aunt (one careful lady owner) and I quickly set about the task of improving (ruining) it with various additions that in reality did very little for it! I currently drive a BMW 320d Tourer for family duties. It has remained resolutely standard!
Money no object, what car would you have?
I have always been a huge Ferrari fan, and my time with Fiat Chrysler Group allowed me some further exposure to the brand which only furthered that passion. Any Ferrari is a collection of art and engineering, but the 355 was the first car that really caught my attention as a child. This would have to be my first choice given the opportunity.
What do you listen to when driving?
I tend to listen to podcasts whilst driving, when you are working on the road most of the time I find that podcasts are a great way of passing the time with something engaging and entertaining.
What is Airlabs’ focus for 2019?
Airlabs’ focus for 2019 is to grow brand awareness and the fleet proposition from our current base of consumer activity. The general awareness of air quality on our roads, particularly within urban environments is something that is increasing, however the vast majority of individuals are not aware of quite how significant the impact of poor air quality is having on their drivers. Our challenge is to educate the sector on firstly the current situation, and secondly what can be done to improve it. Our in-vehicle solution, Airbubbl, is scientifically developed to not only purify the air from a point of particulate matter, but also remove the harmful gases such as Nitrogen Dioxide that are so intrinsically linked to respiratory issues and a reduction in driver focus. The product’s ability to create a safer environment for users is our USP and as such should be something that the fleet sector is considering to improve the wellbeing of their driver population.
By how much have you found the fleet sector change?
The obvious shift is that taxation is taking people out of traditional company vehicles and into cash schemes. It is very difficult for people to see the company car as a benefit when it is becoming so cost prohibitive. The move to lower emission vehicles is clearly changing how drivers choose their next car, and with this it is bringing a sharper focus onto the condition of the air we breathe as a result of vehicle emissions. Again, from a point of view of what we are trying to achieve here at Airlabs, it is important that drivers understand the impacts of vehicle emissions and what can be done to improve the quality of the air that they breathe whilst in a vehicle – the figures are quite alarming in terms of the gases and pollutants that we are exposed to as a result of traffic day to day.
What’s keeping today’s fleet manager awake at night?
I believe that the biggest issues facing fleet managers today is the way in which vehicles are viewed by both employees and employers in relation to their impact both environmentally and financially. The focus is very much on moving to greener fleets and this is starting to happen, however the shift to alternative fuels is not an overnight fix and their application is still not suitable for many fleet operations. Until range, cost and infrastructure are significantly improved I feel there is still a long way to go and we are in that middle ground today where the decision to move away from traditional ICE vehicles is a difficult one in many cases.
How do you see that continuing to change over the next 5-10 years?
Certainly a continued trend to lower emission vehicles, and the technology and efficiencies within vehicle manufacturers will continue to improve. I think the decrease in traditional user chooser company car drivers will continue and fleet managers will need to assess how they manage from a duty of care point of view the increase in PCH vehicles that are in place amongst their driver communities. The buying behaviour of drivers has very much shifted and the leasing sector will continue to grow as more users become more comfortable with this channel.
What would you like to see change in that time?
Personally I feel that the way fleet vehicles are taxed is not being reviewed fast enough, or in line with the vehicle manufacturer’s ability to continue to reduce Co2 emissions. As such fleet managers are going to be put in an increasingly tough position as drivers demand choice of vehicles that reduce their personal costs. The reduction of Co2 emissions through vehicle development is becoming harder and harder to achieve as OEM’s try to find new ways of improving engine efficiency. The reductions become more and more marginal as the lower levels we are seeing today reach a critical point. The legislation on taxation, in my opinion, is not taking into consideration this challenge of continuing to reduce those emission and as such the vehicle industry will struggle to offer a solution to meet the requirements of the fleet operators without compromising on the function of those vehicles.
What’s in the pipeline from Airlabs for 2019?
We are partnering with some incredible organisations and businesses who are focused on promoting a cleaner environment, some of which are not related to the motor industry and some very much a major part of it, but the key is around building public awareness of the issues, and how Airlabs can be an integral part to solving the air quality issues we all face today. We have a clean air zone operating within London’s Marylebone station to name but one project, something we are very proud of and well worth taking a look at next time you pass through.