Uses of palladium in electric cars

By on February 6, 2011

Palladium (Pd) is a d-block element belonging to the group 10 in the periodic table. Palladium is one of the members of the six precious metals forming the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) with platinum, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium being the other five[Jiro Tsuji, 2004]. Present abundantly in Russia, Palladium is silvery-white in color.

Applications of palladium

Like any other precious metal Palladium is used for several purposes. No precious metal can escape from the craze of women. Palladium is used in jewellery for making ornaments, watches and white-gold jewels [InternationalNickelCompany, 1966]. It is used in medicine field in order to make surgical instruments and dentistry. It has applications in electrical and electronics field too. Above all, the highest usage of Palladium lies in the automobile industry for a process called auto-catalysis.

An overview of electric cars

It has been identified that the demand for Palladium is drastically increasing in the recent years because of its application in automobile industry especially in the functioning of electric cars. The modern automobile technology has paved the way for the venture of pollution free, zero emission cars known as electric cars which function either with the help of frequently charged batteries or the hydrogen fuel cells that generate electricity on-board in contrast to the conventional cars with Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs) that operated with the aid of liquids such as petrol and diesel extracted from fossil fuels.

Role of palladium in electric cars

Fuel cell cars are those that run with the help of electricity generated as a result of the action of hydrogen present in the fuel cell with atmospheric oxygen yielding water. With unlimited supply of hydrogen it is possible to manufacture a pollution free car which travels across the globe. In general a fuel cell consists of two electrodes with an electrolyte sandwiched in between. Hydrogen passes over one electrode and Oxygen passes over other yielding water, heat and electricity. However for this to happen we need certain elements known as enablers or catalysts to make the hydrogen present at the anode to split into protons and electrons and react with oxygen. A catalyst may be defined as an element that fastens or accelerates a chemical reaction without being affected by the same. The issue with the hydrogen fuel cell cars was with their cost due to the usage of the most expensive metal Platinum as the catalyst. However Palladium has proven itself an excellent catalyst replacing Platinum thereby reducing the cost of electric cars based on hydrogen fuel cell technology [Popular Science, 1993].

Palladium as a pollution reducing agent

Normally the automobiles emit poisonous substances such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and oxides of nitrogen that pollute the environment and cause several diseases. To prevent the same vehicles have cylindrical components coated with PGMs and some chemicals. These auto catalysts convert these poisonous gases into less harmful nitrogen, carbon-di-oxide and water. Palladium serves as the best agent in autocatalysis giving itself a significant place in the automobile industry. Palladium is thus widely used in manufacturing pollution free vehicles. Almost all the world class automobile manufacturers like Ford, Volkswagen, Rover, and Renault make us of Palladium for autocatalysis [Philip Gotthelf, 2003].


Palladium within a short span of time has exhibited an important role in the electric car manufacturing technology and is expected to change the future by creating a revolution in the automobile industry by rendering low cost pollution free vehicles to the market.



  • Jiro Tsuji, Palladium reagents and catalysts: new perspectives for the 21st century, John Wiley and Sons, 2004
  • InternationalNickelCompany, Palladium: the metal, its properties and applications, International Nickel, 1966
  • Popular Science, Bonnier Corporation, Jun 1993
  • Philip Gotthelf, Precious metals trading: how to profit from major market moves, John Wiley and Sons, 2005