adBlue: What you need to know about the diesel additive

Photo: Total

The Euro 6 exhaust emission standard has been in force since 2014. To meet new limits, many diesels will have to fill up with Adblue. What is behind the additive? company car clarifies.

Drivers are already confused at gas stations: Ultimate, V-Power, Maxx Motion or Fuel Save – at most the regular customers of the respective mineral oil companies know right away what they are filling their tanks with. Now another tap with the beautiful inscription Adblue also comes into play. Here, too, the marketing experts have tweaked the name. This is because it is actually a urea solution, such as is used in numerous hand creams – also better known as urea. In diesel engines, Adblue ensures that the nitrogen oxide is almost completely converted into harmless nitrogen and water.

32.5 percent urea solution

Since September 2014, new exhaust emission limits have come into force with the Euro 6 standard. Instead of the Euro 5 standard, the nitrogen oxide content is to be reduced from a maximum of 180 milligrams per kilometer to a maximum of 80 milligrams as a result. Initially, the new directive only applied to new type approvals. Since 2015, however, all new cars must comply with the stricter limits.

While NOx storage catalytic converters are sufficient for smaller vehicles to meet the Euro 6 standard, larger models require an SCR catalytic converter (selective catalytic reduction). The 32.5 percent urea solution is injected into the exhaust tract directly upstream of the catalytic converter from a separate tank.

Adblue has been used in trucks for some time now

Adblue itself is nothing new. The additive has long been used in trucks to reduce nitrogen oxide levels in commercial vehicles. A truck driver expects Adblue consumption to be around five percent of normal diesel consumption. For a heavy truck, this corresponds to around 1.4 liters per 100 kilometers. The Adblue network for trucks is correspondingly well developed. Due to the increased flow rate of truck dispensers, however, they are not suitable for passenger cars. At four Shell service stations (Ingolstadt, Munich, Sindelfingen and Wolfsburg), the additive for exhaust gas aftertreatment is now also being offered on a trial basis for diesel cars at pumps.

Adblue is topped up during customer service

For passenger cars, manufacturers calculate that around 0.1 liters of Adblue are needed per 100 kilometers. As planned, the urea solution is to be added by the workshop during regular servicing. Say after about 20.000 to 30.000 kilometers. And for emergencies, the urea solution is also available in bottles at service station stores between the engine oil and windshield wiper water.

Why the pilot project with Adblue dispensers?? At present, around 200.000 diesel cars and vans with SCR technology are on the road in Germany, but by 2020 three out of four new cars with compression-ignition engines could need an Adblue supply. Shell and the manufacturers Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and VW would therefore prefer to use this pilot project to begin coordinating the technically different refueling systems of the manufacturers today. Advantage for us customers: We then have enough time to get used to the nice new name.


Functional principle of SCR technology: Adblue is an aqueous urea solution that is carried in an additional tank. During operation, the engine electronics control the dosage so that the harmful nitrogen oxides contained in the exhaust gas stream always meet the right amount of reactants. For this purpose, the water-dissolved Adblue is injected into the hot exhaust gas and hydrolyzed to ammonia (NH3), which then causes the reduction of nitrogen oxides to harmless nitrogen and water in the downstream SCR catalytic converter.


Ten questions ten answers

What is Adblue?
A watery urea solution that reduces the nitrogen oxide content of diesel engines by 90 percent.

Does Adblue have other advantages?
Yes, fuel consumption is reduced by up to five percent.

Where Adblue is located?
In a separate tank, usually in the spare wheel well.

How big is the tank?
Between 20 and 30 liters.

How long does the tank last?
20.000 to 30.000 kilometers. On average, 0.1 liters of Adblue are needed per 100 kilometers.

Do I have to refill Adblue?
Normally, the tank size is designed so that the manufacturer itself refills during inspection. Should it go empty beforehand, either via a fuel filler neck or a special access in the trunk.

Will I be warned before the tank is empty??
Yes, the on-board computer warns you in good time.

Can I drive without Adblue?
Generally not. It is then no longer possible to start the engine.

Where to get Adblue?
At car dealers, accessory stores or even at many gas stations. In the meantime there are even own gas pumps. But beware, some of them are only suitable for trucks.

How much does Adblue cost?
In general, the larger the canister, the cheaper it is. Online, 40-liter canisters are sold for around 30 euros gross.

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