US-based glass and ceramics producer Corning is hoping to become a front runner in fighting air pollution by offering devices that help automakers control car and truck emissions in China.
The company is expanding its Shanghai plant and building another in Hefei city, Anhui province, as it sees strong potential in China’s moves to tighten emissions standards, said Wu Dan, general manager in China for Corning Environmental Technologies.
The two plants will produce ceramic substrates — devices to help reduce gaseous emissions — and gasoline particulate filters for fine particulate matter.
New government regulations require all sales and registrations of light duty vehicles to comply with new emissions standards by the middle of 2020.
“We need to be ready in advance, collaborating with automakers and catalyzer producers to optimize this new technology before the new regulations go into effect,” Wu said.
Carmakers are searching for solutions after the Ministry of Environmental Protection proposed the “most stringent ever” rules on emissions from gasoline cars last year.
Parts producers, such as makers of catalytic converters and engine combustion chambers, have been developing products to help carmakers meet the new standards .
Corning has been producing advanced materials to help curb air pollution since it invented the ceramic substrates over 40 years ago to help automakers meet the US Clean Air Act regulations after the link between vehicle exhausts and air pollution became clear.
The devices are installed close to the engine and exhaust fumes pass through a ceramic material, which is coated with chemicals to convert harmful pollutants, such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide into non-toxic gases and water vapor.
Today, Corning continues to develop market-leading emissions control solutions by advancing ceramic substrate and particulate filter technology.
Its latest product, gasoline particulate filters, efficiently captures fine particulate matter, such as PM2.5. That deals with a problem clouding especially cities in northern China, which are engulfed by heavy smog and haze in winter.
By the middle of 2020, particulate matter emissions in new cars must be 60-80 percent lower than current levels.
“(That is) a request which requires automakers to change the structure of the car emissions control systems,” Wu said.
The new rules are the sixth generation of China’s emission standards.
While for past decades, cars installed with ceramic substrates would have met standards, a particulate filter will now need to be added to the emissions control system to meet the new regulations.
Sales of particulate filters are expected to start ramping up in 2018. To meet demand, the new operations in Corning’s Environmental Technologies plant in Shanghai will start early that year.
And construction of the Hefei plant will be completed over the course of the year.
“We expect sales will see strong increases in the years to come,” Wu said.
China has been the most coveted market by automakers worldwide since it became the largest car market in 2009.
“We will continue to invest in China as our products and services can help the government’s ambition to reduce air pollution by advancing technologies in industries such as auto manufacturing,” Wu said.
Since Corning’s Environmental Technologies business came to China and based in Shanghai in 2000, it has expanded its Shanghai plant three times, injecting investment totaling more than US$400 million.
“It turns out we made a wise decision as China has become the biggest car market in the world,” Wu.
Last year, Corning reaped US$2.08 billion in sales in China across all its businesses, accounting for almost 22.2 percent of its global sales, according to its latest annual report.
China is one of the fastest growing markets for Corning’s Environmental Technologies business.
The company will boost production and research in that area, the annual report said.
“Few other countries or regions these days are highlighting environmental protection as much as China, “ Wu said.
“Which gives us more opportunities to sell our products and be a part of the move to improve air quality.”