Do all cars have catalytic converters? What you should know

Air pollution is a major malady ailing the automobile industry. This is due to the gases emitted by millions of vehicles around the world.

To reduce emissions, manufacturers install special devices onto the exhaust pipes of cars to clean gases before they are released into the environment. These devices are called catalytic converters.

car catalyst

So, Do All Cars Have Catalytic Converters?

This question is very subjective because every vehicle has a different engine and a different level of emission. To answer this question we will look at the major car types independently.

Petrol cars

Ever since cars started consuming unleaded fuel, catalytic converters became a necessity. Petrol engines are major producers of nitrogen oxides which must be converted to ammonia before releasing to the environment. Petrol cars definitely have catalytic converters.

Diesel cars

Diesel engines produce harmful emissions too that need to be cleared before release. Diesel engines utilize two types of catalytic converters; DOC (Diesel oxidation catalyst) and SCR (selective catalytic reduction).

The former utilizes an almost similar formula to that of the petrol car although slightly different. It breaks down carbon monoxide to water and carbon using metals. The latter on the other hand use ammonia-based catalysts to convert nitrogen emissions to nitrogen and oxygen

Hybrid Cars

All hybrid cars that utilize gas or petrol engines have catalytic converters.

Gas/ electric hybrids (Non-plug-in). These are cars with both gas and electric engine. The gas engine takes over when the electric engine runs low and also recharges the electric engine. The presence of a gas engine in this car necessitates a catalytic convertor.

Gas/ electric hybrids (plug-in). These are cars with both electric and gas engines where the electric battery can be charged by the gas engine and by plugging it into a charging station. They too need a catalytic converter.

Electric cars

Electric cars do not need catalytic convertors since their engines do not emit any harmful gases. They do not have any gas engines to take over and are only rechargeable by plugging into charging stations.

Why are catalytic converters more present in petrol cars than in diesel cars?

Petrol engines produce harmful emissions at a higher rate compared to their diesel counterparts. Governments implemented the law to install catalytic converters in petrol engine cars in 1992 while for diesel engines it only happened 8 years later.

Difference Between Petrol, Diesel, And Hybrid Catalytic Converters

There is a difference between these three catalytic convertors though quite subtle.

  • Catalytic converters in petrol engines convert Nitrogen oxides to carbon dioxide and water.
  • Diesel engine catalytic convertors convert carbon monoxide to water and carbon using metal.
  • Hybrid engines’ catalytic converters depend on the engines involved: the electric engine combined with either the gas or diesel engine.

Benefits Of Electric Cars Without Catalytic Convertors

1. Clogged catalytic converters and DFPs

As I have mentioned, all petrol cars have catalytic converters which are mandatory to counteract the effects of pollution, but these can over time clog up from debris deposits.

Also, most diesel engines utilize diesel particulate filters (DPF) which trap the engine’s emissions and burn them off. The burning-off process only occurs after the exhaust reaches a certain temperature. To attain the required temperature the car needs to reach a certain speed.

If you do not drive your diesel car very fast your exhaust might never reach the required temperature and end up with a clogged DPF.

Electric cars do not need catalytic converters and DPF so their drivers never have to worry about clogging their exhausts. Note that it is illegal to remove your car’s cat and DPF, and you risk getting fined.

2. Catalytic Converters In Petrol Cars Are Targets For Thieves

These emission-cleaning devices are filled with very precious metals that thieves are finding hard to resist stealing. Having one of these devices in your car increases your chances of getting a visit from car part thieves.

The measures you can take to protect your car are few and mandatory. You can choose to add some aftermarket protective covers on the exhaust, park in a safe area, or park strategically to prevent access to the underneath.

The measures are quite desperate and are needed to be effective since thieves have devised ways to counter almost every move by car owners to protect their cars.

Driving an electric car without any of these thief-attracting devices saves you the effort to need to park on certain sides of the lot. As far as these devices are concerned electric cars are safer.

3. Daunting Servicing

Internal combustion engines require frequent servicing to change oil and filters. The costs vary but increase with the car’s age. Even the most basic models need to visit the service station at least twice a year.

Electric cars require less effort to maintain due to their basic and unique design. Electric car drivers rarely complain about clogged catalytic converters or DPFs, oil changes, and other relatively expensive servicing requirements that come with internal combustion engines.

4. Fines For Driving In Low-Emission Zones

Apart from advocating for low-emission cars, governments are putting in place measures to restrict internal combustion cars. There are certain areas of cities petrol and diesel engines are prohibited when caught drivers are forced to part with a fine.

The safest way to avoid these restrictions and fines is to drive emission-free cars like the electric or hydrogen models.

Video Overview

Will catalytic converters be present in future cars?

With the advent of technology, carmakers are beginning to adopt newer and cleaner sources of energy for cars.

Electric cars for example do not emit harmful gases hence the catalytic convertor is nonexistent for them. Other clean car energy sources might come up and the modern car might never need the catalytic converter.

However, as long as the modern car uses a gas or diesel engine, it will always need the catalytic converter.

What Happens If I Remove The Catalytic Convertor From The Car?

There should be some adverse damage if you choose to drive without the catalytic converter. Some drivers even remove them to avoid some costs that come with the technology.

It is however illegal in some areas to dismantle the catalytic convertor without an intention to replace it immediately. You might never get caught but if you do, you risk getting fined.

Bottom line

Environmental conservation cannot be achieved without curbing emissions from internal combustion engines. Governments have taken major steps towards this goal with the introduction of some legal obligations and this is helped also by electric and hydrogen cars.

Cars can move without catalytic convertors but drivers are advised to make use of these devices to reduce the emission of harmful gases into the environment.

Scroll to Top