Reducing Cold-Start Emissions by Catalytic Converter Thermal Management

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Vacuum insulation and phase-change thermal storage have been used to enhance the heat retention of a prototype catalytic converter. Storing heat in the converter between trips allows exhaust gases to be converted more quickly, significantly reducing cold-start emissions. Using a small metal hydride, the thermal conductance of the vacuum insulation can be varied continuously between 0.49 and 27W/m2K (R-12 to R-0.2 insulation) to prevent overheating of the catalyst. A prototype was installed in a Dodge Neon with a 2.0liter engine. Following a standard preconditioning and a 23-hour cold soak, an FTP (Federal Test Procedure) emissions test was performed. Although exhaust temperatures during the preconditioning were not hot enough to melt the phase-change material, the vacuum insulationperformed well, resulting in a converter temperature of 146 degrees C after the 23-hour cold soak at 27 degrees C. Compared to the same converter at ambient conditions, overall emissions of CO and HC were reduced by 52% and 29%, to 0.27 and 0.037 g/mile, respectively. The maximum converter temperature during the FTP cycle was 720 degrees C. This limited testing was performed with a nearly-freshpalladium-only catalyst, but demonstrates the potential of this vacuum insulation approach for emissions reduction and thermal control. Further testing is ongoing. An initial assessment of several production issues is made, including high-volume fabrication challenges, durability, and cost.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1995

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-473-7025


  • catalytic converter
  • thermal storage
  • vacuum insulation


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