Do Hybrid Cars Have Catalytic Converters? Your Questions about Cats in Cars Answered

You’ll find more kinds of motorized vehicles on our highways today than at any time in the past. You’ll still see lots of gas-burning and diesel-burning cars and trucks, which have been around for a century. But today there are also hybrid cars, plug-in hybrid cars, turbo diesel cars, pure electric cars, fuel cell cars and even electric motorcycles. Some new cars are hard to classify, like BMW’s 2015 i8, which the Bavarian carmaker describes as “turbo-hybridized.”

Not all Hybrids have catalytic converters, but if it burns fossil fuels like the Toyota Prius Hybrid shown in this photo, it has a cat. Image Credit: Toyota.

If you’re interested in collecting and recycling catalytic converters for a profit, the arrival of all these high-tech vehicles can get confusing. Which of them contain cat converters, and which don’t?

Simple Rule:
If It Burns Liquid Fossil Fuel, It’s Got a Converter and
If It Doesn’t Burn Liquid Fossil Fuel, It Doesn’t Have One

That simplifies everything, right? Any vehicle manufactured after 1975 that burns either gasoline or diesel fuel is almost certain to have a catalytic converter. (That was the year when cat converters were first installed on U.S. cars.) So even these high-tech wonders have catalytic converters because they burn gas or diesel fuel:

  • Pure (non plug-in) gas/electric hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic and Accord hybrid models and the Ford Fusion Hybrid. These cars all have gas-burning engines that take over once electrical power runs out; their gas-burning engines also recharge their batteries.
  • Plug-in gas/electric hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt, the Ford Fusion Energi and plug-in versions of the Toyota Prius. These cars also have gas-burning engines that take over once electrical power runs out; their batteries can be charged by either plugging into a charging station or by their gas-burning engines.
  • Diesel and turbo-diesel cars, like all the Volkswagen TDI versions of the Jetta, the Passat and other models. Yes, they’re diesels, but they need cats anyway to reduce tailpipe emissions.

However, these high-tech vehicles do not have catalytic converters:

  • Purely electric cars that burn no gas, like the Tesla, the Nissan Leaf, and all-electric versions of the Honda Fit, the Fiat 500e and a few other cars. These cars are powered solely by batteries that are recharged by plugging into charging stations; they have no gas engines to take over if their batteries run out of juice.
  • Fuel cell cars and cars that run on propane do not have catalytic converters.

What about Motorcycles and Motor Scooters?

Okay, here things get a little complicated. But there’s a rule of thumb to keep in mind:

The bigger and newer the motorcycle is,
the more likely it is to have a catalytic converter.

For example, the EPA reports that about 20% of larger “cruising” motorcycles manufactured in 2002 and 2003 used cat converters. By 2005, that increased to about 40%. By 2010, more than 50% of larger motorcycles used cat converters, and percentages have increased since then. Today’s Harley Davidson bikes have catalytic converters, for example, as do modern cruisers from Honda, BMW and other manufacturers.

Today, virtually all modern new motorcycles of all sizes and even scooters like the Vespa are equipped with small catalytic converters. But an additional complication is that motorcyclists love to boost performance by removing the catalytic converters from their bikes. The result? It is possible to find junked motorcycles that have missing catalytic converters. So the bottom line is, you have to examine each cycle to determine whether a catalytic converter is there.

Another consideration is that motorcycle cats are small and contain very little platinum, palladium, rhodium or other precious metals. You are going to have to find an awful lot of them – 1,000 or more – to make much money recycling them.

And What about Electric Motorcycles?

Again, the rule applies that only vehicles that burn liquid fossil fuels have catalytic converters. So today’s electric motorcycles, including the very, very cool bikes manufactured by Zero, don’t have cats.

Do You Have Catalytic Converters to Recycle?

If you have 500 or more automotive catalytic converters that you would like to recycle, give us a call at 800-426-2344. Our recycling and refining experts are waiting to speak to you.

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How to Eliminate the Middleman and Make More Money from Your Used Catalytic Converters
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Non-Automotive Catalytic Converters Contain Precious Metals Too