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Gold medal for Wallman‘s environmental work for Volvo Car Corporation
14 May 2008
The world’s perhaps most important invention for controlling exhaust emissions on cars was developed at Volvo Car Corporation in the early 1970s. Under the leadership of the legendary environmental expert Stephen Wallman, the three-way catalytic converter controlled by an oxygen sensor was introduced. Mr. Wallman has now been awarded the Royal Swedish Automobile club’s gold medal.
When the first Volvo cars fitted with a three-way catalytic converter and an oxygen sensor arrived in California, officials took one of the cars and drove it to the United States Congress on Capital Hill in Washington D.C. and asked the question: “Why can’t American manufacturers do this when a small company like Volvo Cars can?”
The year was 1976. At that time, the automobile industry had been aware for six years that American legislation regarding exhaust emissions was to be made radically stricter by the 1970 "Clean Air Act." Volvo put Stephen Wallman in charge of emissions development, a project that quickly expanded and eventually included some 60 people.
”We worked with three or four different solutions but soon realised that this was obviously the best one. The emissions readings were best, as were driveability and fuel consumption,” explains Stephen Wallman.
The system received type approval and in the span of a few short years, the entire auto industry had copied this solution. However, it was not until 1989 that Sweden passed legislation regarding emissions levels and the oxygen sensor became mandatory.
”For such a small manufacturer, VCC actually has two completely unique solutions that can now be found in nearly all cars: the three-way catalytic converter with an oxygen sensor and the three-point safety belt, which is one of the most important safety developments of all time. That is something that we can be very proud of,” says Stephen Wallman.
Stephen is now retired but follows the development of alternative fuels with great interest.
”Unfortunately, I can’t really see a common solution for the automobile industry. Fuels as standardised as petrol and diesel don’t exist. Even if everyone were to agree on one alternative, the same raw materials are not available in northern Sweden, the south of France and in the tropics. This presents the industry with a major challenge.”
In mid-February, 2008, Stephen Wallman was awarded the Clarence von Rosen gold medal by the Royal Swedish Automobile club for his groundbreaking work with the environment at Volvo Car Corporation.
Facts in brief Stephen Wallman:
Family: Wife and grown children
Resides: in Gothenburg, Sweden
Education: Technology Licentiate with focus on machines at Chalmers University of Technology
Career at Volvo: September 1, 1968 to December 31, 2002, with duties ranging from head of emissions development, manager for drivelines and manager for Complete Vehicles
Other environment-related work at VCC: he was involved in VCC’s work with gas and ethanol-powered vehicles and hybrids
Currently drives: a Volvo V70 Flexifuel