Do Hybrids Have Catalytic Converters? Why & What They Do

Hybrid vehicles are electric vehicles that have engines that operate solely on electric power. But do hybrid vehicles have catalytic converters?

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Do hybrid vehicles have catalytic converters?

Yes, hybrid vehicles have catalytic converters. While hybrid vehicles do operate on electric power, they also operate on gasoline engines some of the time as well, hence being a “hybrid” vehicle. The use of the gasoline portion of the engine requires a catalytic converter. 

Over the years, I have worked on many hybrid vehicles. I’ve been able to repair and diagnose hybrid vehicles with the latest tools in the industry. 

Every time I pop the hood on one, they never cease to amaze me with their compact engines, not wasting any space. The gas mileage is also impressive, with fluctuating gas prices, this is a big bonus. 

What Is A Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is a stationary device on your vehicle’s exhaust system. They were first introduced in the mid 1970’s. The catalytic converter lies in line with the exhaust system. 

The purpose of the catalytic converter is to convert toxic gasses into less pollutant ones.

Precious metals such as platinum or palladium that are within the catalytic converter play a role in this conversion. 

When the exhaust gasses come in contact with the precious metal, a chemical reaction takes place resulting in less harmful exhaust emissions that are safer for the atmosphere. 

The metal in the catalytic converter is the catalyst, giving origin to its name, ‘Catalytic Converter”.  During the conversion temperatures upward of 1000 degrees can be produced by the catalytic converter to ensure the chemical changes take place.

Chemicals going into the catalytic converter are extremely harmful to the atmosphere yet when they flow through the honeycomb-like structure of the catalytic converter, they are converted into less harmful ones. Future generations will appreciate this greatly. 

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Another Type Of Catalytic Converter

Back to, “do hybrid vehicles have catalytic converters?”. There’s an additional type of catalytic converter that hybrids use called SCR converters. 

The purpose of these converters is similar to conventional catalytic converters however, SCR converters are electric and do not utilize high temperatures for the conversions. SCR stands for selective catalytic reduction. 

SCR converters mainly target nitrogen oxides instead of the full spectrum of gasses emitted by gasoline engines.

SCR works by injecting a catalytic chemical into the exhaust stream instead of passing it through a catalyst like conventional catalytic converters.  

The chemical that is used to convert the nitrogen oxide into a less harmful substance is called aqueous urea.

When exhaust gasses, specifically aqueous urea, come in contact with the nitrogen oxide, the nitrogen oxide turns into nitrogen and water. 

SCR may seem like overkill for a vehicle already fitted with a catalytic converter, but the SCR is the auto industry’s response to the world’s tighter emissions standards. And again future generations will be grateful. 

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The Importance Of Catalytic Converters

The importance of catalytic converters in any vehicle, hybrid or not, is great. Without catalytic converters, there would be smog everywhere. 

Before catalytic converters, there was a huge smog problem in Los Angeles. The catalytic converter was created by an engineer to basically combat the smog problem in LA, and to have clear air. 

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that catalytic converters became commonplace. And in response to higher emission standards than the 1970’s the catalytic converter was invented and started being shipped on vehicles.  

Catalytic converters are the number one item that combat smog within the world. WIthout catalytic converters, there would be smog everywhere due to vehicle pollution, and our ozone would be greatly affected. 

Next time you think about running straight pipes and removing your catalytic converter, think about the environment, and the effect you are having on it. 

Catalytic Converter Theft

A rise in catalytic converter theft has been noted recently. Catalytic converter theft has become a growing problem throughout the United States. 

Catalytic converter theft is often done in the middle of the night. The theft is done by thieves who are looking to profit from recycling the precious materials inside the converter.

There’s usually either platinum or palladium inside the converter and when a thief removes it from a car, they can take it to a junkyard and get paid between $30 and $250. 

The theft is particularly damaging to a car, because for some makes and models, it can total out a vehicle. 

While the recycle price is $30, the new price can be well over $2000 making a car impossible to repair for some victims of the crime. 

And the thieves usually cut out the converter with a sawzall making the whole exhaust system unusable. 

Catalytic converter theft is a nasty crime. So if you hear a saw noise from your driveway in the middle of the night, suspect that someone is stealing  your catalytic converter and put a stop to it as soon as you can. 

Converters In A Hybrid

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Converters in a hybrid work essentially the same as they do in a regular vehicle. This is because the converter works for the gasoline engine inside the hybrid engine. 

You see, hybrids have both an electric engine and a gasoline engine that work together to move the car. So a hybrid car has a typical engine with all the regular components a gasoline engine has such as intake, exhaust, engine, crankshaft, etc.

But then it has an electric motor part powered by a battery. But the gasoline engine part of the hybrid vehicle is a normal gasoline engine, therefore with a normal exhaust system. 

And in that normal exhaust system lives a catalyst converter, just like any other gasoline engine setup. 

The catalytic converter on a hybrid vehicle converts harmful pollutant gasses into less pollutant ones and saves the atmosphere from damaging chemicals. 

While the hybrid vehicle outputs less harmful emissions because half the time it is driven by an electric motor that outputs no harmful exhaust gasses, the other half of the time it is driven by a gasoline engine. 

Or in a series hybrid, the gasoline powered engine’s sole purpose is to charge the batteries of a hybrid vehicle. The engine never powers the car. 

But the engine still outputs dangerous exhaust gasses, and therefore, the engine in a series powered hybrid needs a catalytic converter. 

Hybrids In General

While hybrids do boast a rather impressive decrease in emissions, they do not totally mitigate the problem. Hybrids are called hybrids because they are a two pronged solution to a singular problem. 

A hybrid solution was used to attack the problem of emissions. Tackling emissions is a serious problem and hybrids attempt to do just that by cutting down on the emissions from a gasoline powered engine by using an electric engine half the time.

But some of the time, hybrids still use a gasoline engine. If you’re looking for a totally emissions free car, you’re going to need to look for a totally electric car like a Tesla. While Tesla’s are great, they do lack the natural feel of a traditional gasoline powered vehicle. 

Hybrids try to make the best of both worlds and power the car through a battery and gasoline engine, giving the driver the best of both worlds, while also saving the environment from nasty chemicals constantly being released into the atmosphere. 

Key Takeaways

  • Hybrids have two engines. A battery operated engine and a gasoline powered engine.
  • The gasoline powered engine on a hybrid still uses a catalytic converter.
  • Some hybrids use electric catalytic converters that use Urea to mitigate NOX.
  • Catalytic converter theft is a growing crime. 
  • Series hybrid uses only a battery powered engine to operate the hybrid. 

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