August 30, 2015

Want cleaner emissions? Don’t forget the AdBlue!

New additive cuts out harmful emissions

New Euro6 emissions regulations for diesel cars and vans that take effect from this September target unwanted tailpipe emissions, especially nitrogen oxides (NOx) which are a major cause of respiratory problems, particularly in cities and built-up areas.

The new rules cut the permissible limits for NOx dramatically, from the current 180mg/km to just 80mg/km, with the aim of limiting the impact on the environment and public health.

How are manufacturers meeting the regulations?

Vehicle manufacturers are looking at a number of options that include vehicle weight reduction, reduced compression ratio in engines and more efficient drive-trains.

But the most common remedies are after-treatment systems such as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) which are positioned within the existing gas circulatory systems, and which work with the injection of a reduction agent, widely known as AdBlue.

So what is AdBlue and how does it work?

The latest new-generation, low-emission diesel models fitted with SCR operate by injecting a synthetically produced urea into the exhaust system, upstream of the catalytic converter.

Most commonly known as AdBlue, this synthetic urea is continuously sprayed into the exhaust gas and assists in the breakdown of harmful NOx, turning nitrogen oxide into harmless steam and nitrogen.

AdBlue is consumed in proportion to engine usage, and tank levels need regular monitoring and topping up. Anecdotal evidence suggests that usage can be quite high, especially for long distance drivers, and it is estimated that a passenger car will consume approximately 1.5 litres of AdBlue every 620 miles.
It has been in common use on trucks and buses since 2006 following the introduction of Euro4 regulations for those vehicle classes.

How will I know when to top up?

Falling levels of AdBlue are indicated by a warning light on the dashboard to tell you when the tank is reduced to, typically, a quarter full. A further warning occurs if the tank reaches minimal levels of AdBlue.

These warnings should not be ignored, because without sufficient AdBlue the latest engines will simply not work – and you could be causing considerable damage.

Drivers who opt for a Euro6-compliant engine that uses AdBlue will also need to bear in mind the additional cost of the fluid and how it will be topped up.

Use AdBlue of the specific standard for your car – as you would with oil, for example. If in any doubt, refer to your driver’s handbook which should provide the definitive answer.

AdBlue damages surfaces such as painted vehicle parts, plastic, items of clothing and carpets, so be careful with it. Spilt AdBlue should be removed as quickly as possible using a damp cloth and plenty of cold water.

Another thing to be aware of is that AdBlue tank capacities vary from model to model. Typically, on the latest models, this seems to be in the region of 17- 31 litres, but again your driver’s handbook should have all the answers – with most motor manufacturers providing an estimate of the average range of a tank of AdBlue.

A vehicle may need AdBlue fluid levels topping up by 50-100% at a service, although usage is linked to vehicle load, environmental conditions and driving style.

For instance, a vehicle may use more fluid on mountain roads or towing or if a driver accelerates a lot, just like with diesel or petrol. As a simple rule of thumb, the smoother the driving style, the longer the liquid will last.

Where do I find the AdBlue tank?

The location of the AdBlue tank varies across manufacturers and from model to model, but is often close to the diesel tank or in the boot, under the carpet, or in the engine compartment. It can usually by identified by a blue cover.

Check your driver’s handbook to thoroughly familiarise yourself with the location of the AdBlue tank on your car. It should become as familiar to you as checking the oil or the windscreen washer bottle level.

Manufacturers should typically top up the tank at time of service, but consumption of AdBlue can vary enormously according to vehicle type and model, vehicle load, environmental conditions, driving requirements and driving style.

And, with many of today’s diesel vehicles having variable servicing intervals, drivers need to keep a watchful eye on tank levels to ensure your vehicle will start.
Vehicles using AdBlue are equipped with special dashboard warning lights, but again the message displayed varies across manufacturers.

How much does it cost?

The additive itself typically costs £1.30-£1.40 per litre but can vary considerably. It can be bought at retail outlets, dealerships or service stations, with some manufacturers providing AdBlue free of charge, if supplied through one of their dealerships.

Costs for refilling the AdBlue tank vary depending on capacity but could typically be at least £20 per company car service once labour charges have been applied.

With the typical company cars undergoing perhaps three services during its fleet life, this could amount to, at a conservative estimate, an extra cost of £60 per vehicle.

If you have any doubts and you would like to discuss more about AdBlue and how it might affect the running of your car, please get in touch.