Platinum content in catalytic converters can differ significantly depending on the year the catalytic converter was fabricated and the type of vehicle. Small cars usually average 1 to 2 grams per car, while larger trucks can have as much as 12 to 15 grams.
Catalytic converters are a nonhomogeneous product; there are broad spectrum variances in metallurgic makeup and consistency. Composition is dependent on engine displacement and type of fuel used. Varying market prices for platinum and supply and demand fluctuations have impacted the amount of platinum used in catalytic converters over the years, as it is really a ratio or mixture of platinum, palladium and rhodium. This platinum metal mixture is commonly referred to as PGMs, or platinum group metals.
Catalytic converters are part of the vehicle emissions control system and are used in internal combustion engines, whether fueled by gasoline or diesel. Platinum functions as a catalyst to accelerate chemical reactions used to convert harmful vehicle emissions into less harmful substances. The catalytic converter was first invented by French mechanical engineer Eugene Houdry in the 1950s, who was prompted into his research by early studies of smog in Los Angeles. However, the first official catalytic converter in production for automobiles was not developed until 1973.