Palladium is one of the three precious metals found in catalytic converters, along with rhodium and platinum. Just like the two other metals, palladium plays a very important role in purifying exhaust fumes and reducing toxic emissions.
Palladium happens to be a very expensive metal, which is one of the reasons behind the high scrap value of catalytic converters. However, not every cat converter has the same amount of palladium. It ranges extensively from one car to the next.
How much palladium is in a catalytic converter?
As different car models need different catalytic converters, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this. In a cat converter, the quantity of palladium depends on the emission type and the nature of the engine in the car. It usually ranges between two to seven grams per catalytic converter, but there are exceptions.
For instance, luxury cars can have up to 10 or 12 grams of palladium in their cat converters to balance the higher emissions from their powerful engines.
On the other hand, economy cars have much smaller amounts of palladium. Cars running on petrol generally have more palladium than diesel or hybrid cars in their cat converters.
What vehicles have the most palladium in the catalytic converters?
Generally, larger vehicles or powerful sports and luxury cars have the most palladium in their catalytic converter. Some of the cars that have the highest amounts of palladium are:
- The Mercedes-Benz S600
- Ford F-150 petrol version
- Lamborghini Adventador
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Ford F-250
- BMW 760iLi
- Ferrari F430
As you might notice, all these cars are either SUVs, trucks, or luxury cars. These vehicles have powerful engines, which means they also generate more emissions. The cars require larger catalytic converters with more palladium to regulate such high emissions.
How much palladium is in the average converter?
A standard catalytic converter weighs somewhere around 1.2 kg to 1.5 kg, and has two to seven grams of palladium. However, depending on the car model, its cat converter can be much heavier and contain more palladium too.
The ratio of platinum, palladium, and rhodium isn’t always the same either, and a car may have more palladium but less platinum than another. Hence, the average amount of palladium in a catalytic converter varies significantly – you would have to find out information specific to your car model.
How much is palladium worth?
A gram of palladium currently costs around 60 US dollars. This means a catalytic converter with five grams of palladium can fetch you almost USD 300 from the scrap palladium alone.
Once you consider the platinum and the rhodium as well, the total scrap value would be much higher. The high price of palladium is the result of the metal’s scarcity.
Here’s an example to give you a better idea – the world has almost 190 thousand metric tons of gold, but only 165 ounces of palladium. Thus, palladium is far scarcer than gold, and much more expensive.
Which catalytic converters have the most palladium?
Different cars can have significant differences in the amount of palladium in their cat converters. Here are some of the catalytic converters that have the most palladium:
1. Petrol cars
As a thumb rule, cars running on gasoline have more palladium than cars with diesel engines. Although palladium works with gasoline and diesel cars and is present in both, it’s far more useful in gasoline cars. Platinum is more suitable for reducing diesel emissions, which is why diesel engine cars have the most platinum and very less palladium.
2. Trucks and SUVs
As trucks and SUVs are heavy vehicles designed to carry and tow heavier loads, they also have more powerful engines. This results in higher emissions, and in turn, requires bigger catalytic converters to reduce the toxins. A catalytic converter from an SUV or a truck will therefore fetch higher scrap value, which is one of the reasons why these vehicles are among the favorite targets for cat converter theft.
3. Exotic cars
High-end sports and luxury cars naturally have larger and more powerful engines in order to deliver higher performance. They require expensive catalytic converters with higher amounts of precious metals to reduce their emissions to safe levels. This explains why the most expensive catalytic converter in the world belongs to the Ferrari F430. In fact, Ferrari F430 uses two of these catalytic converters, with the total cost amounting to more than USD 7500.
4. Low-emission cars
Low emission cars such as the Toyota Prius have high-value catalytic converters. In fact, these cat converters are the reason why these cars have low emissions in the first place.
Unless a vehicle has a particularly eco-friendlier or smaller engine, it would need a better catalytic converter in order to be a low-emission car.
The small economy-class cars are usually the ones with the lowest amount of palladium in their catalytic converters.
Where Does palladium Come From?
Palladium is available only in trace amounts in the Earth’s crust, although it isn’t as rare as platinum. One of the first accounts of palladium is from Brazil, back in the 1700s.
Miners had come across a native alloy of palladium and gold, although palladium was yet to earn its identity as a new metal. William Wollaston, in 1803 became the first person to extract palladium, although he extracted it from platinum rather than gold.
Currently, most of the world’s palladium comes from South Africa and Russia. However, it isn’t usually available in pure form but comes as a byproduct of mining other metals like nickel and platinum.
What Kind Of Metal Is palladium?
The white metal palladium is a part of the platinum group of metals. Other metals in the group are platinum, iridium, rhodium, osmium, and ruthenium.
Although palladium is a rare metal, and far rarer than gold and silver, it’s more abundantly available than platinum. Palladium and platinum share several differences, such as the former being more corrosion-resistant while the latter is denser.
Besides catalytic converters, palladium also finds application in scientific and medical equipment, dental fillings, and jewelry. However, catalytic converters account for more than 80% of the global palladium usage.
In most catalytic converters, palladium converts about 89% of the harmful toxins into less harmful substances. This demonstrates the value of palladium in catalytic converters.
In the catalytic converter, the palladium exists as a coating over a honeycomb structure, along with platinum and rhodium. The metal promotes chemical reactions as the gasses pass through the honeycomb and come in touch with palladium.
These chemical reactions convert nitric oxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide into water, carbon dioxide, and other less dangerous substances.
As long as you have a regular fuel-injected vehicle, it would have palladium in its catalytic converter. However, the quantity of the metal may vary from as low as 2 grams to more than 10 grams, depending on the manufacturer and the car model.
Every car comes with a specific cat converter designed for its engine and emissions.
If you have an old cat converter that you need to get rid of, selling it as scrap can fetch you a decent amount of money. Also, always make sure to protect your catalytic converter from theft, as it’s a common target and can be quite expensive to replace.