ECTA's cutting edge emissions control technology

Emissions Control Technology

ECTA member companies have been on the cutting edge of emissions control technology for mobile sources for more than four decades. As a result of advanced scientific research on catalysis, ECTA members brought to market ground-breaking technology that enabled significant reductions in motor vehicle emissions. Those advances in technology made possible passage of the Clean Air Act (1970) and the subsequent revisions over the last three decades. ECTA members have continued their commitment to develop state-of-the-art technology that removes virtually all tailpipe pollution from gasoline-powered automobiles and dramatically reduces emissions from diesel engines. For example, the average passenger car today is 99% less polluting than an average car from the late 1960s. Many technologies have been integrated to accomplish that result, but the ECTA member companies are proud to have played a significant role in that progress.

Since 1975, when unleaded gas became widely available, catalytic converters have removed about 1.5 billion tons of air pollution in the United State and about 3 billion tons worldwide. While dramatic progress has been made, gasoline and diesel powered vehicles remain a significant source of pollution. So, ECTA member companies continue with the same unwavering commitment to developing science and technology to enable further emissions reductions. For example, in order to meet stricter environmental regulations, the industry is planning to invest $1.8 billion in developing, manufacturing and commercializing clean diesel technology.


The diagram above, courtesy of Umicore Autocat, USA Inc., shows how a diesel retrofit device works.

At the same time that ECTA members are developing new ways to reduce harmful mobile source emissions, its member-companies generate important economic benefits in all regions of the country. ECTA member companies employ more than 60,000 people worldwide and maintain operations in 27 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to economic benefits derived from jobs and investments, ECTA member companies produce technologies that provide health benefits through cleaner air.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are more than 11 million diesel engines currently in operation, the so-called “legacy fleet,” that will take decades to fully replace. EPA has set a goal of retrofitting (or modernizing) 100 percent of this legacy fleet by 2014. Government, industry, and non-governmental organizations are all in agreement that these critical diesel emission reductions require significant federal and state funding to achieve a successful outcome. The technology developed by ECTA members have demonstrated the effectiveness of diesel retrofit programs on a wide-range of applications from city buses to heavy-duty vehicles to school buses.

Along with its well established ability to achieve the desired reductions, diesel retrofits are one of the most cost-effective means for reducing diesel emissions. A recent study by a leading American economist concluded that reducing a ton of nitrogen oxides (NOx) is estimated to be 14 times more valuable to society than reducing a ton of volatile organic compounds (VOC), and reducing a ton of particulate matter (PM) is estimated to provide more than 117 times the benefit to society than reducing a ton of VOC.  The study found diesel retrofits are an extremely competitive emission reduction strategy on a cost-effectiveness basis, costing approximately $137 to $431 per ton of VOC equivalent reduced depending on whether the retrofit was a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) or a diesel particulate filter (DPF) or for on or nonroad engines.  This is compared to a range of $1,386 to $42,260 per ton of VOC equivalent for HOV lanes and $1,144 to $74,977 ton of VOC equivalent for telework.

Additionally, the study also determined the cost-effectiveness of projects based on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) weight of 20 for PM.  Using the CARB weight, diesel retrofits received a cost-effectiveness range of $805 to $2,529 per ton of VOC equivalent reduced. Only inspection and maintenance was close with a range of $1,234 to $5,738 per ton of VOC equivalent reduced.  It was a similar cost-effectiveness analysis by the same economist that led Congress to approve diesel retrofits as an approved use of funds in the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) program.


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