Oct 11, 2018
Posted by Dave Duncan, Global Director of Technology
What do we envision when we consider the future of engine technology? Sometimes it can be useful to consider the historical perspective.
From the time the first affordable passenger cars were available (largely thanks to Ford’s iconic Model T), through about the 1930s, there was a diversity in engine technology that hasn’t been seen since. Different automakers looking to capitalize on the developing market’s appetite for affordable personal transportation deployed different technologies, some more successful than others. Steam-powered road vehicles, for instance, competed with internal combustion engines before World War II, around which time combustion engines became more simple to operate and more reliable in general.
But from that point forward, technology largely began to consolidate, and we’ve effectively seen the industry transition from one “Era” to the next. The Carburation Era, the Fuel Injection Era, Port Fuel Injection Era. Engine technology has evolved significantly, but from automaker to automaker, it effectively moved in tandem.
We might call today’s era the TGDI Era, with so many automakers utilizing that technology to seize new efficiency benefits. But the truth is that most of today’s TGDI engines differ significantly from OEM to OEM, and we’re on the verge of seeing more brand-new engine technology being introduced over the next few years. It’s a break from the past—an engine landscape we’ll not have seen since the dawn of the automotive era. We’ll see new engine cycles, combustion engines may become far more complex, and hybrid technology ranging from high-voltage to low-voltage with complementary combustion engines will become increasingly common.
The immediate future, in short, is all about engine diversity. And this of course has some significant implications on how engine oils of the future are approved and marketed in the North American marketplace and around the globe.
Europe provides a good example. While ACEA exists as the continent’s major specifying body, the market there is far more OEM-driven. Engine oils must not simply meet ACEA standards, but specific standards to Volkswagen, Renault, BMW, Mercedes, and more, with each OEM dictating specific requirements for fluids used within their engines.
As it pertains to increasing engine diversity, this is critical. Increasing diversity means an increasing amount of varied and specific demands upon the engine oil. OEMs are making major investments in the engine technology they believe will deliver the best performance—and they will have a greater stake in the right lubricants being used in their vehicles. And it’s quite likely that the North American-style, broad specification driven market, will not be able to effectively support this widespread market transition.
I think this recent news from Lubes’N’Greases correlates with that suggestion: Global consumption of original equipment manufacturer genuine engine oils is projected to increase at an annual rate of four percent over the next five years. “North America will see the strongest growth in the consumption of such oils as vehicle ownership forms and consumer behavior shift to bring more vehicles back to dealerships for maintenance and service,” the report says. “OEM genuine oil is manufactured for an automaker based on its specifications.”
OEMs moving to have their unique demands met through genuine oils is just one indicator of the shift that may be about to take place. And while Europe has been OEM-spec driven for years, we’ve seen General Motors take matters into their own hands through its dexos1 specification. Between these factors and the increasing diversity of engine technology we’re beginning to witness, a true shift is beginning to take place—and the lubricants industry must be ready for it.
In order to best prepare for this shift, the lubricants industry must be nimble and proactive. The progress to ILSAC GF-6 has been too slow, and even API SN Plus could have been brought to market more quickly. The successful implementation of API SN Plus and the now-widespread availability of LSPI protection are examples of how we can start to work toward those goals—but it can’t be the end of the story.
New, diverse engine technology will certainly bring presently unforeseen challenges that the lubricant will help eliminate. With the future demands of an increasingly complex and diverse car parc, the lubricant is more important than ever. Highly advanced lubricant technology can provide protection and durability while enabling modern engines to meet their full potential.
For more information on How Lubricants Aid Future Technologies, contact your Lubrizol representative.