Although particulate filters are very effective in dramatically reducing the amount of particulates emitted from diesel vehicles, most filters need to burn the trapped particulates off fairly regularly, known as regeneration. This usually requires the vehicle to be driven at over 50mph for a short period of time. This fact sheet will help you decide whether vehicles using particulate filters are suitable for your drivers.
Diesel particulate filters are used to reduce the exhaust emissions as required by European legislation, especially particulate matter. A particulate filter traps most of the soot that is produced during diesel combustion and would normally travel down the exhaust and into the atmosphere. These particulates can cause respiratory problems if people are exposed to high concentrations over time.
A filter can hold a certain amount of soot, but not a huge quantity, so it needs to regularly go through a process of regeneration in order to clear out the soot and allow the vehicle to operate properly. Regeneration occurs when the filter reaches a sufficiently high temperature, allowing the soot to be converted to a much smaller amount of ash. On most systems, to allow the filter to automatically regenerate, the engine should be used regularly at a sufficient speed, to ensure a high enough temperature of the exhaust gas is reached.
Although it may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, typically a vehicle must be driven at 50mph or above for at least 20 minutes in order to automatically regenerate the filter. During the regeneration phase, high temperatures in the filter may cause a slight smell, especially during the first regeneration.
If the vehicle is not driven in a way that automatically regenerates the particulate filter, it will build up an excessive amount of soot, which, if not resolved, will reduce the performance of the vehicle and damage the filter. If the filter does build up too much soot, a vehicle warning light will appear to alert the driver. The problem can usually be resolved by allowing the filter to automatically regenerate until the warning light goes out – i.e. by driving the vehicle at 50mph or above for at least 20 minutes. The vehicle handbook will have specific guidance for the vehicle. If traffic conditions and speed limits do not allow the vehicle to be driven so that the filter regenerates, it will have to be returned to a dealer for a forced regeneration to clear the filter. If the warning light is ignored and the vehicle is driven without regenerating the filter, it will cause damage to the vehicle, which will not be covered by warranty or our maintenance agreement. We are aware of businesses in the UK who have incurred costs in the region of £1,000 to £1,500 after a driver has failed to follow the correct regeneration process.
The majority of vehicle manufacturers now have diesel particulate filters that require the regeneration cycle to be driven, but not all. Some have systems that can heat up the particulate filter and regenerate it without the need for a higher speed drive cycle. Some inject fuel straight into the filter which burns and therefore increases the temperature in the filter, and others have heaters built into the filter. For specific details of individual models, please refer to manufacturers' websites.
If drivers are restricted in their ability to regenerate a diesel particulate filter through driving at higher speeds, there are other vehicles that can be chosen which do not use this technology. Diesel models with the built-in heating systems are an option, or alternatively, a petrol, petrol hybrid, electric or alternatively fuelled vehicle may be more suitable, especially in urban only driving conditions.
Diesel particulate filters significantly reduce harmful emissions and are vital for diesel vehicles meeting European tailpipe emissions, but care is needed when using this technology in predominantly urban driving conditions. Therefore check the type of particulate filter on any diesel car with an urban drive-cycle and make sure it's suitable, otherwise consider a different fuel type or vehicle technology.
As part of the overall drive to reduce emissions, and to comply with the new Euro 6 standards, more and more diesel cars now include SCR
(Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology. Used in the rightway, SCR can help to reduce Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions by as much as 90%,
with fuel effciency also increasing by between 3% and 5%.
For the technology to work, vehicles need to be ftted with a special tank for storing a liquid-reductant agent AdBlue So if your vehicle is
fitted with Adblue there are a few things you’ll need to know.
AdBlue is a mixture of water and urea, which you top up periodically, as you do with fuel. As you drive, AdBlue flows from the tank
into the exhaust pipe via a dedicated catalyst. The effect is a chemical reaction that converts most of the NOx moleculesinto
Nitrogen and water. This is then released into the atmosphere as steam.
AdBlue is available from an increasing number of fuel stations and motorway services, but your dealer will also be able to
supply AdBlue. New vehicles tend to have a filling point next to the fuel cap, however it does vary depending on the
manufacturer and model so it’s best to refer to the owner’s manual before you start.
It’s important to take action as soon as you see any relevant warning lights on your dashboard. There are
three possible warnings.
First warning – advises you that AdBlue tank is getting low.
Second warning – will give you a mileage range and sometimes is accompanied by an acoustic warning
Final Warning – at this point the vehicle will either go into limp home mode (run at reduced power) or
will not restart once the ignition has been switched off.
Because it’s a solution you top up periodically, as you do with fuel, the costs are not covered by the maintenance contract
and are therefore payable by the driver of the vehicle.
The only exception to this is if the service schedule states that the fluid needs to be changed (rather than topped up).