Testing and Developing Tomorrow’s Lubricants

Testing and Developing Tomorrow’s Lubricants

Oct 2, 2018
Posted by Tom Curtis, President, Lubrizol Additives

Topics: Passenger Cars

Predicting the future isn’t an easy thing to do, but when it comes to the future of engine hardware, one thing seems increasingly certain: a wide variety of new and different hardware and technologies throughout the marketplace.

The days where internal combustion engines rule the landscape are behind us. We’ve recently been exploring how turbocharged gasoline direct (TGDI) engines are making a major impact on the passenger car market, and they’ll continue to do so for years to come. Beyond TGDI, we’ll begin seeing increasing electrification and hybridization (and beyond) in our ongoing pursuit of broadly reducing CO2 emissions. Some of these technologies have fundamentally new demands of the lubricant. And at Lubrizol, we’ve already begun exploring how we’ll continue to deliver for our customers.

With the progress being made today, we should consider the true intent of the lubricant: protecting the engine—all engines—at all phases throughout a vehicle’s lifecycle. It’s what our industry should always be working toward. Formulations may change, and the specific performance requirements may change, but the essential relevance of the lubricant will not.

And here lies an issue the automotive industry should be seriously thinking about when it comes to how we certify lubricants for use throughout the car parc. If we as an industry must always be investigating the future, we shouldn’t be testing lubricants for performance on aging engine technology. When low speed pre-ignition (LSPI) first reared its head in the marketplace, the existing ILSAC GF-5 was unable to account for nor predict its prevalence, because no engine in the testing spectrum was a TGDI engine. Simultaneously, the lubricants industry must be able to deliver lubricant solutions that do satisfy the needs of older, higher-mileage vehicles that call for more traditional technologies. Backward compatibility has been a historic driver of our industry.

If we are to be addressing the challenges of the future’s vehicles while simultaneously those of older engines, a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work. A 2005 engine will not have the same lubricant requirement as a 2021 engine. Electric hybrid technology that will exist in five years will have fundamentally different demands than those of today’s standard TGDI. But as it currently stands, we’re operating under a model that assumes the same lubricant must somehow deliver optimized performance in both vehicles.

How to address this challenge together, as an industry? The introduction of new tiers seems an inevitability, and we’re already witnessing it happening outside of the ILSAC specification development process. North American OEMs have introduced their own specifications, most notably GM’s dexos1, which demands performance beyond that of ILSAC. The proposed ILSAC GF-6, however, does include an unprecedented split between GF-6A and GF-6B, the latter of which is intended to specify “ultra” low-viscosity lubricants of the 0W-16 grade and below. Meanwhile, the European ACEA model has long been an example of how to tier broad-reaching specifications tailored to the needs of a diverse vehicle parc.

In North America, API SN Plus proved illustrative of one way to adapt an existing specification to the needs of a changing car market in a relatively fast and painless way. We’ve discussed how rolling specifications and evergreen test development can enable our industry to support new test development—on new engines—on an as-needed basis rather than deal with the entirety of the specification process.

Our view:

It’s imperative that we work proactively to address the needs of the evolving engine, with supportive technology, to achieve the goal of delivering durability and protection for tomorrow’s engine.

Government, society, OEMS and consumers deserve better innovative products that provide meaningful and understandable benefits. They need them faster, so we can meet the challenges of the global market and societal needs as a whole. At Lubrizol, we’re being proactive and working with other industry stakeholders to solve the issues our industry faces. The answers might not come easy, but they are critical to achieving our goals.

For more information on new lubricants, contact your Lubrizol representative.

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