Issue: Dec 2018

Making mobility as sustainable as possible

by Nick Palmen

Since United States legislation forced the fitting of catalytic converters to vehicles in 1975 it is estimated that the technology has kept billions of tons of pollutants out of the atmosphere.

 “It is considered one of the top 10 innovations human kind has developed,” says Mark Wright, Managing Director of BASF Catalysts Germany and Vice President for Mobile Emissions Catalysts Europe, BASF. The chemical company owns various patents for catalytic converter technology.

The development of catalytic converters and lead-free fuel was spurred on by the 1970 passing of the United States Clean Air Act, which decreed that vehicle emissions had to be cut by 75% by 1975. BASF pioneered the development of the first catalytic converters which were fitted to the 1975-model cars, and one year later the company introduced the three way conversion catalyst,

 which is now capable of destroying over 90% of the hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) produced by car engines. Since its introduction BASF’s three-way catalyst technology has destroyed over a billion tons of HC), NOx and CO pollutants before they reached the atmosphere, according to the company.

There are currently more than half a billion cars on the roads worldwide, and nearly 200 million trucks, and the automotive catalyst is incorporated into nearly every vehicle. Without them, air quality in and around most cities would be far worse than it is today.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Mark Wright, Managing Director BASF Catalysts Germany and Vice President for

 Mobile Emissions Catalysts Europe, what emission control technologies the company provides for gasoline and diesel-powered passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

Wright: The automotive industry accounts for approximately 18% of total BASF sales. We see our task as making mobility as sustainable as possible. That is why the BASF product portfolio comprises mobile emissions catalysts for combustion engines and solutions for electromobility. Both help to improve air quality.

As one of the world’s leading supplier of catalysts, BASF has great expertise in the development of emission control technologies for a wide range of market applications that protect the air we breathe. This expertise enabled BASF to pioneer the development of the first catalytic converter for automobiles in the 1970's and our line of emissions catalysts today. We at BASF Catalysts supply technologies that provide emission control for gasoline and diesel-powered passenger cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and other vehicles. Protecting the atmosphere from harmful emissions is the focus of all of our mobile emissions catalyst products and solutions.

AI: How does BASF help OEMs meet the most stringent legislation for vehicle emissions?

Wright: We work closely with vehicle manufacturers to adapt our leading-edge technologies to meet their needs for high performance and cost, and help them to comply with tighter environmental regulations around the world. New engine technologies, tightening emission regulations and fluctuating precious metals prices create emissions control challenges. Our focus is always on innovative, cost-effective solutions to meet the needs of our customers.

With a creative, open, responsible and entrepreneurial approach we help make our customers more successful.


AI: What do you think is the future of the internal combustion engine?

Wright: What we can see in different studies is that the internal combustion engine is, and will remain, the dominant automotive engine application for at least the next decade. While alternate technologies are being successfully developed and have gained traction over the past years, they will remain a relatively small percentage of the overall market. BASF is, however, developing new technologies to address emerging demand for such technologies, such as lithium ion battery materials.

AI: Out of the two - petrol and diesel, which do you see more suitable to fulfil future mobility needs and help reach the emission reduction goals?

Wright: The full "Real World Driving Emissions" (RDE) regulations for Europe has been in effect since September 2017. It limits real world driving emissions of NOx and fine particulates. This will increase the drive to the commercialization of clean passenger cars and light commercial vehicles with diesel and gasoline engines addressing municipal air quality problems.

When using modern emissions reduction measures, we see gasoline and diesel as clean technologies for the future of combustion engines. Within the motor mix, they fulfil different mobility needs and help to reach the sophisticated CO2 emissions reduction goals. The preservation of a diversified energy mix is key from our point of view.

AI: How strong is the demand for catalyst and filter solutions in the heavy-duty diesel market?

Wright: The demand for catalysts solutions remains strong in the heavy-duty market. It is a fast-growing market, driven by new on- and off-road regulations. This is supported by the figures: market growth for heavy-duty diesel catalysts in Europe is estimated to be over 4% per year (2018-2022). It certainly is an important market for us and we continue to invest significantly in this market to establish a clear leadership position with our technologies.

AI: What do you offer for the segment?

Wright: BASF maintains significant research and development facilities around the world. These facilities are being used to develop the technologies needed to meet the extremely low emission levels called for in new regulations. For heavy-duty diesel vehicles BASF offers a variety of catalyst and filter solutions, such as Diesel Oxidation Catalysts, Catalyzed Diesel Particulate Filters, Selective Catalytic Reduction, Selective Catalytic Reduction on Filter, Lean NOx Traps and Ammonia Oxidation Catalysts.

AI: What is the most important characteristic of the heavy-duty emission control system?

Wright: In comparison to an emission control system of a modern gasoline or diesel passenger car, which typically includes two to three catalysts, a system for heavy-duty diesel can consist of up to twelve catalysts. Thus, the average volume of catalysts is much larger in a heavy-duty vehicle. Since there is regulation that emission control technologies for heavy-duty need to work efficiently up to 700,000 kilometers, the factor of durability is extremely important in this segment.

AI: In terms of innovation what are you working on at present? And what’s next for BASF?

Wright: Of course, emissions regulation is, and will always remain a strong driver in our business, and we want to continue to be the innovative partner for our customers to meet the most stringent legislation for vehicle emissions. We will keep working on even more advanced technologies for emission control for light duty and heavy-duty vehicles to improve the performance of our products even more. Our goal is not only to meet, but to exceed current emissions standards. That is why research and development is very important for us. With new innovations we want to increase the efficiency of our products and solutions and test new raw materials. Our clear goal is to improve air quality for all of us.

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