ISELIN, N.J.-As if cars aren't complicated enough, carmakers are studying a system to allow vehicles to scrub polluted air clean via a catalytic-radiator system. Engelhard Corp. of Iselin claims its system, called PremAir, converts ground-level ozone and carbon monoxide to oxygen and carbon dioxide. The cost is estimated at $500 to $1,000 per car.
PremAir is expected to provide significant ozone and carbon monoxide reduction without vehicle redesign, driver inconvenience or changes in the automotive repair business and fuel industry, said Terence Poles, director of business development at Engelhard.
A platinum coating, similar to that used on exhaust catalysts, is sprayed onto the heat exchanger's surface. As air passes over the fins, ozone is reduced to oxygen and carbon monoxide is treated and released as carbon dioxide.
Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. are taking a look, and Engelhard said it is in contact with all of the top automakers.
Charles Gray, EPA division director for regulatory programs and technology at the National Vehicle and Fuels Emission Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., was cautiously enthusiastic, noting ``radiators move lots of air. So it's within the realm of possibilities. But the bottom line is: Do the numbers add up? Is it cheaper than other methods of emissions reduction?''
He and other EPA officials are studying Engelhard's data, while air quality officials are said to be discussing the advantages of retrofitting the coating to vehicles already on the road.
The high cost is related to coating the radiator with a platinum-based washcoat similar to one on tailpipe catalytic converters. Engelhard said it might require as much or more of the exotic mat-erial as current tailpipe catalysts.
Testing has just begun, but the firm believes the coating should last for 10 years or 100,000 miles.