GF-6B: Lower Viscosity for Higher Performance and Fuel Economy

GF-6B: Lower Viscosity for Higher Performance and Fuel Economy

Nov 15, 2016

Topics: Passenger Cars

Engine technology is evolving rapidly, and the right lubricant technology is essential for modern passenger cars to reach their full potential. ILSAC GF-6— a next generation passenger car engine oil specification—has been developed in response to these market changes, and it’s why the new category will for the first time be split into two distinct categories: GF-6A and GF-6B.

The new specification raises the bar for engine oil performance across the board, incorporating seven new tests. But where GF-6A certifies traditional viscosity grades for use in existing passenger car vehicles, GF-6B pushes the envelope, certifying lower viscosities—SAE 0W-16 and lower—for use in modern, cutting-edge engine hardware and delivering enhanced fuel economy.

“Automakers are designing their engines to utilize lower viscosity grades in order to reach new levels of fuel economy,” said Martin Birze, regional business manager, passenger car engine oils, Lubrizol. “GF-B will enable the availability of ultra low viscosity lubricants to satisfy those needs.”

The Necessity of GF-6B

Effectively a category all its own, GF-6B is essential to the future of engine oils.

It’s widely accepted that lower viscosity lubricants can benefit fuel economy, but lubricant behavior and formulation approaches change significantly at viscosities of 0W-16 and below. GF-6B lubricants can be different than their GF-6A counterparts, and it is crucial in end market use that they are not used interchangeably.

While GF-6A will be backwards compatible with existing passenger car hardware, GF-6B must only be applied to new engines designed specifically for low viscosities. The split in the category helps to make a clear distinction between 0W-16s and above.

“Misapplication is a significant concern for OEMs and oil marketers,” Birze notes. “Only specially engineered hardware can run on 0W-16s—and the industry is working hard to minimize potential occurrences.”

Market education and new labeling of these lubricants will be required in order for end users to clearly distinguish between GF-6A and GF-6B. Automakers will also make clear, through owners’ manuals and dealership service, whether GF-6A or GF-6B are suitable for use in specific models.

Testing for Fuel Economy

GF-6B lubricants must pass all the same performance tests as GF-6A lubricants, with the exception of one category where GF-6B lubricants must excel: Fuel economy.

GF-6 developers discovered that the original proposed fuel economy test for all GF-6 lubricants—the Sequence VIE test—was unequipped to accurately measure fuel economy gains that 0W-16 and below lubricants deliver. The test did not accurately simulate the engine conditions where low viscosity lubricants would be recommended, creating a snag in specification development.

Therefore, a new test specifically for GF-6B lubricants has been developed: The Sequence VIF test, based on new hardware, which will be used to certify GF-6B lubricants for their beneficial effects on fuel economy.  It is likely that across all other performance categories, GF-6B and GF-6A lubricants will be required to perform to the same levels.

Advanced Formulation

Formulation approaches change at lower viscosities due to the fact that thicker lubricants inherently provide more protective benefits. Developing 0W-16 or lower lubricants that deliver the required wear protection and durability presents oil marketers with a distinct formulation challenge.

Lubrizol has worked ahead of specification development to offer the advanced additive technology for 0W-16 and below, in anticipation of a new formulation paradigm. Lubrizol has demonstrated its commitment with it’s first-to-market PV1016 and PV1116 solutions, applicable to new formulation technologies ahead of the ILSAC GF-6B specification.

Market Outlook for GF-6B

GF-6 as a whole is anticipated to see first license in 2019. While initial market share for GF-6B certified lubricants is expected to be limited to new-model vehicles that specifically recommend lower viscosities, it does not diminish the specification’s importance.

For comparison, when 0W-20 lubricants were introduced to the North American market in the 1990s, it took nearly a decade for 0W-20 to reach widespread use. 0W-16s could follow a similar trajectory or could be adopted at a faster rate.

How quickly the new grades gain traction will depend on automakers recommending the use of GF-6B lubricants in their specific vehicles. Some Japanese OEMs have indicated which models will recommend 0W-16 use upon first license. Meanwhile, some North American OEMs have indicated their intent to recommend higher viscosity grades.

What is certain is that GF-6B is driving the passenger car market toward greater efficiency without sacrificing engine protection. GF-6 collectively standardizes higher performance than ever before—and Lubrizol is prepared to help its partners meet that challenge and beyond.

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