26 March 2010

Cheaper Diesels Coming Soon

Diesel engines in cars and other vehicles need catalytic converters, which require platinum, to control their otherwise unacceptably noxious emissions. Platinum costs $1,590 per ounce, which is considerably more than the price of gold. The need for a catalytic converter with platinum in it drives up the cost of a diesel car by $1,000 to $5,000 each.

But, now General Motors scientistis have found a cheaper material, perovskite, that works about as well, but is much cheaper.

[P]erovskite oxides made of cobalt or manganese combined with oxygen. By adding a bit of strontium and lanthanum into the mix, . . . manganese-based perovskite catalysts converted NO to NO2 about as well as platinum-based ones did. The cobalt-based perovskite catalyzed the reaction at rates significantly higher than platinum. . . . The new catalysts are not, however, entirely free of precious metals. The team had to add a bit of palladium – which goes for about one-quarter the cost of platinum – to eliminate some sulfur buildup.

The result may be a new generation of less expensive diesel vehicles. This is good news because diesel engines are more fuel efficient, are reliable because they have simpler designs (they don't need spark plugs), and are more easily adapted to biofuels. The process for making biodiesel is easier than the process for making biofuel substitutes for gasoline, such as ethanol.

Diesels have long been more popular in Europe than in the United States, because fuel is more expensive there making fuel efficiency more important. But, it is only a matter of time before the United States faces similar economic pressures.


Michael Malak said...

That's why Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coins are a good investment. As far as industrial use is concerned, palladium is the new platinum. And it is unlikely that when the U.S. government confiscates gold from its citizens again that it would also go after palladium. (And coins are easier to sell than bars or ingots because they're harder to counterfeit. And physical possession has the advantage over paper, such as ETFs, due to admitted and proven fraud with some paper-based precious metal investments.)


Dave Barnes said...

One reason that diesels are more popular in Europe is that diesel fuel is typically taxed less than gasoline.

In the USA, diesel is taxed more.
So, in Europe we have diesel fuel selling for about 5% less and in the USA about 5% more.

This 10+% spread is huge in terms of people making long-term decisions about what fuel to use.