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Electrification and Ongoing Disruption of the Powertrain

Electrification and Ongoing Disruption of the Powertrain

Jul 31, 2019
Posted by Matt Timmons, Vice President, OEM Engagement

Much has been written about the changing nature of how human beings get around, as the transportation world works toward perfecting connected, autonomous, shared, electric (CASE) vehicle technology. However, less is written about the convergence of these technologies and how the challenges across CASE could dramatically reshape road transport in the coming decades.

To start, it’s worth identifying just how big of an impact OEMs can expect from CASE technologies in the near term. Globally, electrification is happening at vastly different rates. China is the most notable example; the country is moving to electrify its vehicle population far faster than any other global market. In 2018, more electric cars were sold there than the rest of the world combined, driven by government incentives and a sharp allocation of resources to electric vehicle technology and its infrastucture. To give an idea of size, see the Chinese city of Shenzhen. Not only is it presently the world’s only city to operate 100% electric municipal buses, but with 16,000 electrified buses and 35,000 taxis scheduled to follow suit, its magnitude is fairly impressive. Further, China is the home of BYD, the world’s second-largest EV maker in 2018 after U.S.-based Tesla.

Other global cities are following suit. London just announced plans to majorly expand EV-charging infrastructure as part of a mission to become a zero-emission city, following a push by Mayor Sadiq Khan for an “electric revolution.” Paris’ public transport operator also recently announced the city has ordered up to 800 new electric buses, a deal worth “up to 400 million euros”—or $450 million—making it the biggest electric bus purchase of its kind in Europe. While it will be a major task to transform the city’s full fleet of 4,700 buses, Paris officials have pledged to buy only all-electric buses starting in 2025 and phase out diesel cars by 2024. The city also previously set a goal of only allowing electric cars in the city by 2030.

The push for electric vehicles goes beyond just our roadways. Consider the recent news that Volvo Construction Equipment now favors electrification over diesel for its smaller machines and announced a range of four new electric compact excavators and wheel loaders. While the extent to which it is being embraced and implemented varies, the bottom line is that electrification is touching all industries that have traditionally relied upon fossil fuel-based engines and power.

The implications are significant for vehicle powertrains across the globe, the way they’re designed, and the fluids and components they require to operate sustainably and reliably. A wide variety of electrification strategies are being pursued by both legacy OEMs and emerging players, each with new and different requirements and support from critical component suppliers to achieve success. For example, many e-lubricants and e-fluids are required to operate during the whole life cycle of the vehicle (a concept known as “filled for life”). Technology required here must itself last for the entire vehicle lifetime, all while maintaining its protective benefits throughout that same time period.

Consider also the changing nature of how vehicles are being used—the “shared” part of CASE. As we wrote earlier this year, today’s average driver may be operating their car for just 5% of a given day. Compare that to a driverless heavy-duty truck, for instance, that can theoretically operate for days at a time (or longer) without shutting down, or a rideshare vehicle that may be utilized for 70% of the day. Considering near constant use, the rate of utilization increases significantly, thus the durability and sustainability of the powertrain must improve dramatically. Today’s vehicles—and today’s conventional vehicle fluids and lubricants—aren’t currently designed for that sort of intense wear and tear.

The need for greater technology in high-use vehicles directly influences another part of CASE—electrification. But no matter how or where these technologies continue to develop, the automotive industry needs to be operating with a few guiding principles in mind: Efficiency. Durability. Safety. Affordability.

  • Efficiency. It’s what has driven the evolution of engine technology for the past several decades—reducing carbon emissions via fuel economy in the vehicles we rely on for everyday life.
  • Durability. Durability is critical to sustainability, and as the nature of vehicle use changes, it is perhaps more important than ever before. Consumers want, need and expect this, and if we cannot provide durable solutions in our quest for greater electrification of vehicles, we are not truly providing a sustainable solution.
  • Safety. Of course, the safety of passengers and operators is OEMs’ most critical mission. As the powertrain evolves, this must still be a fundamental concern of all automotive industry players.
  • Affordability. Economics tends to drive decisions when it comes to new technological adoption. So new vehicle tech must not be prohibitively expensive, or else it will fail to gain broader, meaningful traction in the real world.

Our View

Accomplishing all of these things isn’t easy, and it’s the responsibility of our industry to work collaboratively, developing reliable, sustainable technological solutions that the future depends on. We must deliver both short-term performance and longevity to truly address the market’s needs; providing just one or the other amounts to a false solution to the challenges in the marketplace.

At Lubrizol, we are fully committed to supporting the ongoing evolution and electrification of vehicles and equipment, with the widest array of technology design OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers may adopt in the coming years. The emerging technical challenges surrounding electric powertrains and batteries are becoming increasingly visible as the demand for greater efficiency, capacity and power density is improving. Lubrizol is working to anticipate those challenges and to ensure that our technology continues to enable OEMs to push the boundaries with new component hardware and technological solutions.

From the internal combustion engine to electrified transmission, from the battery systems to the e-motors, our mission is to develop new e-solutions across the complete vehicle that can enable unmet needs to be resolved in line with the introduction of tomorrow’s transportation and industry requirements.



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