GÖTEBORG, SWEDEN – In the early 1970s, the three-way catalytic converter controlled by an oxygen sensor was introduced under the leadership of environmental expert Stephen Wallman of Volvo Car Corporation. In mid-February 2008, Wallman was awarded the Clarence von Rosen gold medal by the Royal Swedish Automobile club for his groundbreaking work with the environment at Volvo Car Corporation.
In 1976, Volvo put Wallman in charge of emissions development, a project that quickly expanded and eventually included some 60 people.
"We worked with three or four different solutions but soon realized that this was obviously the best one. The emissions readings were best, as were driveability and fuel consumption," Wallman said.
The system received type approval, and in the span of a few short years, the entire auto industry had copied this solution. However, it was not until 1989 that Sweden passed legislation regarding emissions levels and the oxygen sensor became mandatory.
"For such a small manufacturer, VCC actually has two completely unique solutions that can now be found in nearly all cars: the three-way catalytic converter with an oxygen sensor and the three-point safety belt, which is one of the most important safety developments of all time," Wallman said.
Stephen is now retired but follows the development of alternative fuels with great interest.
"Unfortunately, I can't really see a common solution for the automobile industry," he said. "Fuels as standardized as petrol and diesel don't exist. Even if everyone were to agree on one alternative, the same raw materials are not available in northern Sweden, the south of France, and in the tropics. This presents the industry with a major challenge."