Between 30% to 50% of the world’s platinum output is used in automobile catalytic converters, and automobile-based usage are set to become even higher of fuel cell cars become more popular in the future, as platinum catalysts are also used in fuel cells.
Platinum is called a precious metal for a reason. Some keywords found in the definition of a precious metal include rare, and high in economic value. Thus it would make sense for an automaker to try to reduce the usage of such precious metals in their vehicles.
Nissan has developed a new ultra-low precious metal catalyst that will debut on the new Nissan Cube, set to be launched this week on the 19th of November 2008. They claim it uses half the amount of precious metals (rhodium and platinum) compared with regular catalysts – 1.3 grams versus 0.65 grams.
In regular catalysts, the high exhaust gas temperatures cause the precious metals to cluster together, thus reducing exposed metal surface. To counter this, catalysts typically contain more precious metals. Nissan’s catalyst adds a “wall” which prevents the clustering of the precious metals.