By now, the more tech-savvy of ACCT’s potential clients have grasped its essential simplicity — the fact that it easily converts common-or-garden AdBlue into a much more effective after-treatment. They’re wondering how they missed it and why it took a pair of inspired UK academics to discover such a vital process under the very noses of much bigger and better-financed industry research departments. Latest results indicate that, with ACCT fitted, an exhaust system goes on eliminating 99% of NOx even in conditions that defeat conventional SCR catalysts, namely in cool-exhaust conditions when engine loads are light, especially during periods of stop-start running.
The interest in ACCT has been so great that on the first day we published Hargrave’s and Wilson’s story online, it was read by 80,000 people – and a similar number the following day. Many more have read it since. Having waded through the responses to despatch the more frivolous ones, the inventors still have more than 100 serious approaches to cope with. It’s a nice problem to have, but a difficult one. “We’re trying to decide who’s likely to disseminate the technology most quickly and widely, says Hargrave. “The university’s IP specialists are working hard on it, but I wouldn’t pretend it’s easy.”
When not dealing with enquiries, Hargrave and Wilson are refining their invention. They were recently joined by another research associate, Matt Capper, and have a university grant to buy a proper ACCT test car. The ideal target is a pre-EU6 (and pre-SCR) family saloon and the significance of making it a Volkswagen Group model isn’t lost on the partners. The current favourite is a two-wheel-drive Audi A4 TDI, ideal because the centre tunnel normally used for 4x4 paraphernalia in a quattro model is ‘vacant’ in a two-wheeler and thus ideal for carrying experimental exhaust gear.
The aim is to have the car bought, equipped, tuned and gathering data by the end of this month. The partners’ plan is to link ACCT results to a website so interested parties can see how it performs against a counter and also in real time. This will be the biggest proof of the system yet. Horizon-changing results are confidently expected.
As with many productive partnerships, the ACCT pair agree that an important part of their achievement is how they’ve worked together. “It was clear, early on, that Jonathan was a very bright guy,” says Hargrave. “We run a very challenging course and he really proved himself. He’d had a year out at Perkins Engines, learning the problems of exhaust after-treatment, and when he came back, he just said: ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could solve this problem?’
“He tried 100 ways and had plenty of setbacks. Then one day he came to me with what he thought might be a solution. He’s very determined and especially good at taking the fundamental physics and chemistry of a situation and translating it to a system that will work. We sat at my desk, going through some extremely promising data, and I just looked up and said: ‘My God, Jonathan, you’ve done it!'”