Jun 1, 2020
Posted by Dave Wilson, Business Manager - Commercial Engine Lubricants, Alex Jones, Business Manager – Passenger Car Motor Oils, Adrian Fitzpatrick, Commercial Manager – Viscosity Modifiers
As the industry continues its relentless drive toward a low emissions future, significant innovation continues to occur in the internal combustion engine (ICE). Innovations are being enabled by more sophisticated engine lubricants that are a critical design element in the development of future hardware.
Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) engine and aftertreatment hardware strategies differ, often resulting in the need for tailored lubricant technology solutions. Toyota’s “dynamic force engine,” for instance, is designed to improve the useful energy that results from combusting fuel. This creates hotter combustion temperatures and requires lubricant technologies that are high in thermal stability to deliver ongoing engine protection.
In contrast, lower internal operating temperatures in hybrid engines mean that excess fuel and water vapor can accumulate in the absence of extra heat which, in principal, could lead to degradation of the lubricant and corrosion within the engine. These conditions mean that engine oil formulations could require additional elements to add protection in the future. In each case, correct and precisely-formulated lubricant technology is required to optimize the technical and performance benefits sought by the OEM.
Today’s highest performance lubricants are a complex formulation of additive, performance polymer, pour point depressant and high-quality base oil, created for the specific requirements of the hardware design. The benefits they can offer are applicable equally to future as well as existing engine hardware and aftertreatment systems.
As well as enabling hardware and aftertreatment innovations, higher performance lubricants directly deliver efficiency improvements using lower viscosity grades and lower high temperature high shear (HTHS) rate viscosity.
HTHS viscosity is regarded as the viscosity grade classification that best predicts fuel efficiency and more accurately mimics the engine lubricant behavior in increasingly severe operating conditions; notably in the camshaft, bearings as well as the piston rings and liners.
A move to lower HTHS viscosity engine lubricants results in the additive package and performance polymer having an even more significant role to play. This is because the durability protection in lower HTHS lubricants can be reduced and the additive technology needs to compensate for that to enable the lubricant to maintain the required protection.
Efficiency gains can only be fully optimized when the engine hardware works in complete harmony with the approved engine lubricant. Consequently, the engine lubricant can only perform as intended when each of its many and sophisticated components are correctly formulated and subsequently manufactured to the specified component ratios.
Extensive laboratory, engine and field testing has demonstrated that even subtle changes to an approved lubricant formulation may have catastrophic implications on the protection and efficiency of the engine during its life, and at the same time can invalidate the formal OEM approval of the finished lubricant.
Approved engine lubricants must meet rigorous OEM performance demands to ensure efficiency improvements are realized and protection is not compromised. Such requirements apply to industry baseline approvals (such as ACEA and API) as well as more stringent OEM factory-fill, genuine oil and service-fill engine lubricant specifications.
It is important to reinforce the difference between a lubricant that has obtained a formal OEM approval, for example, approved to Volkswagen “VW 504.00 / 507.00,” compared to a lubricant that may be marketed as “to VW 504.00 / 507.00 performance” or “suitable for VW 504.00 / 507.00.” Lubricants marketed as “to” or “suitable for” may not have been formally approved by the OEM and may not provide the correct level of performance and protection.
Conversely, lubricant brands that have obtained this OEM approval will, in this instance, have met a wide range of quality and environmental assurance standards demanded by VW, as well as successfully passed an extensive and rigorous lubricant testing regime.
OEM approvals give oil marketers the opportunity to promote technically-advanced lubricant solutions to customers, while giving end users the reassurance the lubricant has been designed to perform efficiently throughout its lifetime and protect one of the most valuable assets many of us often take for granted.
It is important lubricants conform to an approved specification. Institutions such as Services to Associations and Industry in the Lubricants sector (SAIL) in Europe, which operates on behalf of the Technical Association of the European Lubricants Industry (ATIEL), as well as Petroleum Quality Institute of America (PQIA) in the USA undertake random sampling to ensure they conform to claimed specific technical specifications.
Marketers of lubricants that do not perform to an approved technical specification can quickly lose trust, damage their brand and company reputation, as well as face potential expensive warranty claims from the end-user.
The continuing and sophisticated changes in automotive engines further reinforces the importance of ensuring the engine lubricant is correctly designed and tested to work in harmony with the ICE, delivering the optimal balance of efficiency and protection. As mentioned previously, it is imperative the engine lubricant is correctly formulated and subsequently manufactured to the specified component ratios, as any changes to either of these can have significant adverse implications on the performance and durability protection of the engine hardware.
Higher performing engine lubricants continue to play a vital role in the ongoing evolution of automotive technology. Working in harmony, the additive, performance polymer, pour point depressant and high-quality base oil support engine development and support the drive to a more sustainable, safer and cleaner future.