Louis R. Hughes took over at the helm of Opel in April 1989 – 25 years ago this
month – he was faced with a myriad of tasks, but his attention immediately
turned to catalytic converters. His first decision also became a first for any
volume European manufacturer: the entire Opel gasoline range would be fitted
with catalytic converters as standard.
By mid-1989, 19 of every 20 gasoline-powered
Opels sold had a converter installed as standard, proving that Hughes’
decision, spurred by environmental concerns and tax incentives, and not a
little business acumen, was timely, said a company statement.
While the basic idea has remained unchanged,
catalytic converter technology has greatly improved since it was first
introduced. The focus of regulations is clearly shifting towards more stringent
testing and stricter diagnostics requirements.
Today, emissions have been reduced drastically – to less than 10pc of
pre-catalytic converter levels – and Opel is committed to lowering them even
are at the forefront of developing environmentally friendly technology to
reduce the carbon footprint of our automobiles. This is not only being done
through constantly improving our catalytic converter technology, but also by
developing clean and efficient engines,” says Michael F. Ableson, Vice
President GME Engineering.
“Between 2013 and the end of 2016, Opel will
bring in three fully new engine families and 13 new variants including numerous
frugal derivatives with even lower emissions. Additionally, the company is
proactively rolling out products that go over and above compliance with legal
requirements,” he said.
Dindorf, Engineering Group Manager, Product Regulations, explains why the
decision was taken to install catalytic converters as standard in 1989. “Cars
equipped with converters were environmentally friendly and customers benefited
from tax breaks. Additionally, since we are part of General Motors, we
leveraged the know-how and technologies used for the U.S. – which required
converters – and therefore were better prepared to take the plunge,” he said.
early as 1984, Opel was working on the project and was the first volume
manufacturer in Europe to introduce a European-made catalytic converter on a
1.8-litre Opel Ascona made for the German Police and handed over on December 7
that same year. By the end of 1984, Opel had committed 1,000 employees to work
on catalytic converters and invested a staggering DM1 billion, more than €500
million. Previously, modified U.S. converters were imported into Europe. GM,
Opel’s parent company, was the biggest manufacturer of converters at the time.
the basic idea has remained unchanged, catalytic converter technology has
greatly improved since it was first introduced. The focus of regulations is
clearly shifting towards more stringent testing and stricter diagnostics
have made evolutionary steps in the way converters are designed to ensure
maximum environmental protection,” said Staff Engineer, Engine Management
Systems (EMS) Components, Roland Maucher, adding“Diagnostics have also improved
considerably and today sensors are placed on either side of the converter to
ensure the system is functioning properly. Another significant change was to
integrate the converter with the exhaust manifold, making it far more
efficient. Opel is committed to environmental leadership.”
awareness started gaining traction in the 1980s, leading car manufacturers,
such as Opel, to take a decision that has since prevented billions of tons of
pollutant gases from entering the atmosphere. Converters were made obligatory
in the EU in 1992. The reduction in emissions from the initial Euro 0 level to
Euro 6 is staggering.
“Emissions regulations started being
introduced in the 1970s, but the biggest impact was felt in 1992 when Euro 1
became effective. At that time, having a catalytic converter was not obligatory
and depended on various factors,” he says.
2005 Opel introduced particulate filters for diesel-powered cars across the
range, cutting particulate emissions to almost zero. This was done four years
earlier than the 2009 Euro 5 requirements
4 became mandatory in 2005, the same year Opel introduced particulate filters
for diesel-powered cars across the range, cutting particulate emissions to
almost zero. This was done four years earlier than the 2009 Euro 5
requirements. Opel has begun production of two new systems – the Lean Nox Trap
(LNT) and the AdBlue Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) system, both of which
reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) from exhaust gases. The results have been
staggering: Effectively, the emissions of one diesel-powered car in 1992 is
equivalent to 140 diesel cars in 2014.
“This year, Euro 6 standards become effective
on new models and provide for further incremental reductions. With Euro 6,
emission limits for diesel and petrol cars will be similarly tough. The focus
of regulations is clearly shifting towards more stringent testing and tighter
diagnostics requirements. We are now entering a new phase,” Dindorf says,
adding “It’s no longer the case of whether cars are clean or dirty – they are
all relatively speaking clean, and being made cleaner.”
future will bring even further tightening through a new testing protocol. “We
now expect a new test cycle, the World Light-duty Test Procedure, to be
introduced. Additionally, we will eventually see the start of additional
testing requirements on Real Driving Emissions (RDE), whereby mobile equipment
will be used on cars on the road to check emission standards” Dindorf explains.
“It is not only a matter of dealing with
exhaust gases after they leave the engine “ says Dr Maucher, “but also reducing
the amount of gases produced by the engine in the first place. Improved
efficiency reduces so-called ‘engine-out’ emissions, so our engineers are
putting a great deal of effort into making the combustion better and more
Between 2013 and 2016, Opel is renewing 80
percent of its engine portfolio, with three new engine families and 13
derivatives. This includes new families of powerful yet frugal 1.6-liter
gasoline and diesel engines with lower CO2 emissions. Additionally, a new
standard-setting 1.0-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine will be introduced
new generation four-cylinder 1.6 ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo gasoline engine
is focused on optimised fuel economy, high low-end torque and outstanding
elasticity. Compared to Opel’s previous 1.6-litre turbo engine, CO2 emissions
and fuel consumption are 13pc lower, while peak power and torque are up to 30
percent higher. The new Cascada mid-size convertible was the first Opel model
available with this new engine, which now also powers the Astra, Astra GTC, and
Opel’s all-new 1.6 CDTI Turbo diesel engine
delivers class-leading performance across all key engine parameters. It was
launched in the Zafira Tourer and is now already available in the Meriva and
Astra. Both Opel’s BlueInjection Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system in
the Zafira Tourer and Lean Nox Trap (LNT) technology in the Meriva and Astra
are Euro 6 compliant, making the 1.6 CDTI as clean as a gasoline.
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