AdBlue is a brand name for an additive that is 32.5% urea and many manufacturers are using it in their diesel powertrains to meet Euro 6 emissions regulations (all diesel cars and vans registered after September 1, 2015 have to emit a maximum of 80mg/km of NOx – less than half the previous cap – with many vehicles sold before this date already complying with this rule).
The clear liquid is injected into the selective catalyst reduction (SCR) system in the exhaust chain, where it triggers a chemical reaction which converts NOx into nitrogen and water vapour. It has already been used for a number of years in commercial vehicles, but is something fleet managers and car drivers may not have experienced until a warning light comes on signalling a top-up is needed.
Therefore, it is important that drivers are aware of the process so it doesn’t come as a shock. If the warning light is ignored and the AdBlue runs out, the vehicle stops and will not restart until it is replenished. When this happens will depend on the car and how it has been driven.
Peter Jardine, group fleet manager of Countrywide, has a number of Audi A6 Ultras on his fleet and has found that drivers are having to get the AdBlue tank topped up every 3,000 to 4,000 miles – at the company’s expense.
“When we first spoke to manufacturers about AdBlue, they suggested top-ups would just be done when the cars were serviced, so we decided not to charge drivers,” he says. “We’re now having to order vehicles with bigger AdBlue tanks.”
Peugeot and Citroën say their vehicles will require a top-up every 12,500 miles (fitting with the service interval of some, but not all, models), while some Vauxhall and Volkswagen vehicles could require refilling every 3,000 miles.
Consumption will also vary from car to car. Mike Cooke, fleet operations manager at fleet management firm FleetEurope, says: “You could have two identical cars with identical mileages but, while one might be used over a long distance once or twice a day, the other may be completing numerous short journeys. The total distance could be comparable, but AdBlue usage will differ massively.”
Jardine has agreed a rate of £32.50 per fill with his maintenance provider. “If we fill up 13 times per contract, this is a cost of £422 per car,” he says.
Another issue is deciding on who pays for the top-ups. Russell Adams, commercial vehicle engineer at Lex Autolease, suggests a relatively simple solution.
“We consider AdBlue a consumable, similar to fuel,” he says. “As such, the onus is on the operator of the vehicle to ensure it is adequately topped up and cover any costs incurred.”
However, Simon Pilcher, supplier manager at LeasePlan, adds: “If the service schedule states the fluid needs to be completely changed, we will take care of it,” he adds.
While it is now becoming accepted that the additive is not included as a service, maintenance and repair (SMR) expense covered by a leasing company, it remains unclear whether a fleet operator should cover the cost or pass it on to the driver.
Drivers may be tempted to use the considerable number of AdBlue pumps available at motorway filling stations, but Paul Norman, manager at chemical company Air1, explains that the pumps cannot be used for passenger cars. “Cars will have onboard AdBlue tanks a fraction of the size of a truck’s and the pump flow rate would result in overfilling in a matter of seconds,” he says.
Cooke adds: “It is worth pointing out buying in bulk as a consumer is not advised. AdBlue is a bio-product and therefore has a use-by date. Keeping a quantity in the garage or boot of the car may seem like better value, but just as you wouldn’t drink out of date milk, you shouldn’t use AdBlue past its use by.”
Source: Fleet News
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