Adopting a technology Ford Motor Co. rejected as ineffective, Volvo Car Corp. is putting so-called smog-eating radiators on its new S80 sedan.
Volvo said it would offer Engelhard Corp.'s PremAir technology on S80 radiators beginning in spring 1999. Volvo hopes to sell as many as 100,000 of the cars worldwide next year.
PremAir is a catalyst-based coating applied to an unmodified radiator. As air passes over the treated radiator, ozone molecules are converted to oxygen. Volvo said its tests showed that up to 75 percent of the ozone in the air that passes over the radiator undergoes this conversion.
At ground level, ozone - or smog - is a poisonous gas and health hazard. The combination of sunlight and unburnt hydrocarbons from vehicle exhaust is one cause.
Volvo said it may put the Engelhard technology on other cars. Use of the PremAir coating is in line with Volvo's policy of producing environmentally sound vehicles, said Jeannine Fallon, a spokeswoman for Volvo Cars of North America Inc.
Ford tested the smog-eating radiator concept in 1995 and was, for a time, bullish on prospects for PremAir. The automaker found no technological or cost problems with the Engelhard technology.
The problem was one of volume. Ford found that not enough air passes through a radiator to make much of a difference in fighting air pollution.
'It was just a decision based on how much good it does for the environment,' Ford spokeswoman Sara Tatchio said.
Engelhard said Volvo is using the same PremAir technology that Ford tested, but the coating is cheaper and has a better ozone-to-oxygen conversion rate.
Ford tested a precious-metal-based catalyst that would have added $500 to $1,000 in cost to a vehicle, said Terry Poles, director of new ventures at Engelhard, which is based in Iselin, N.J. The precious-metal catalyst targeted both ozone and carbon monoxide.
But with vehicle fleets running cleaner as older cars are retired, Volvo and Engelhard decided to focus only on ozone, Poles said. That allowed Engelhard to switch to a proprietary base-metal catalyst that adds less than $50 in cost to a Volvo vehicle.
Engelhard shares rose $1.15 to $22.03 in heavy trading on Tuesday, June 2, the day of Volvo's announcement. But stock prices fell back later in the week.
Volvo said that while the Engelhard technology makes little difference in areas where ozone is not a problem, in heavily polluted urban areas the PremAir technology helps to reduce ozone levels.