Insight into the Future of Passenger Car Lubricants

Insight into the Future of Passenger Car Lubricants

Jan 6, 2021
Posted by Colin Morton, Senior Director, Consumer Lubricants, Ewan Delbridge, Director of Technology, Consumer Lubricants

Topics: Passenger Cars

This article highlights the key takeaways from our recent Insight into the Future of Passenger Car Lubricants webinar, part of our Lubrizol360 Webinar Series featuring Lubrizol experts discussing important industry trends.

With more than 1.2 billion passenger vehicles on the road today, and as climate change becomes more of a concern around the world, those vehicles must run more efficiently. In this rapidly changing world, the passenger car lubricant (PCL) market is also changing at an ever-increasing rate. Focus on new vehicles alone is not enough to meet this challenge to move cleaner—the role of the aftermarket to keep older vehicles running effectively is vitally important as well.

The PCL market consists of a complex value chain with many participants and both business-to-business and business-to-consumer customers. As the market evolves, there are rapid changes taking place in various segments of the value chain, which makes the future of the PCL market complex.

This webinar examined what those changes are and what effect they are having on the PCL market as the world tries to negotiate the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Market Requirements

The PCL market requirements are ultimately driven by overall societal needs, primarily to become more environmentally responsible and provide more sustainable transportation solutions. The reality is that no single unified lubricant solution exists to meet these diverse needs. Instead, multiple lubricant formulation approaches are necessary to deliver optimal fuel efficiency and support emissions reduction from passenger cars.

The ever-increasing complexity of the market leads to new technology that incorporates such factors as backward compatibility and lubricants for specific vehicles and engines. In addition, new powertrain system designs that strive for greater engine efficiency require low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI) mitigation, whilst operating across a wider array of conditions without compromise to advanced aftertreatment system compatibility.

PCL Trends

Lower viscosity PCLs derived from safe and sustainable chemistries need to operate efficiently and effectively over a wider range of operating temperatures than ever before. For example, turbo gasoline direct injection (TGDI) engines place greater stress on the lubricant than port fuel injection (PFI) engines, and PCLs are now expected to mitigate LSPI events.

The market is moving towards higher performing, higher value lubricants. There’s a clear trend towards lower viscosity lubricants to improve efficiency and durability gains, which pose formulating challenges for lubricant manufacturers. For example, the thickening associated with macromolecular additives becomes technically more challenging in lighter viscosity grades. In addition, the role of performance polymers and base oil selection becomes even more critical, together with the contribution that new advanced additive design can deliver.

The final trend is greater chemical restriction in the lubricant industry. This limits the scope of available new chemistries and favors less resource-intensive manufacturing processes in order to create smarter . These changes impact both new and existing lubricant solutions including choices for costly and time-consuming product reformulation activities of the latter.

Implications for Lubricant Formulating

The trends above will mandate new technologies in the lubricant industry against the backdrop of an ever-rising performance bar. New componentry and performance polymers will be needed to meet the increased performance requirements of emergent test methods designed to promote efficiency, durability and aftertreatment compatibility.

No component is exempt from additional design elements: dispersants, detergents, antioxidant systems and anti-corrosion/friction reduction systems, along with performance polymers, are all affected. As a result, the lubricant additive industry will need to learn how to create and formulate with efficient, safer and more sustainable chemistries.

Our View

Never has the PCL market been as dynamic and sophisticated as it is today—and it will be well into the future. 2020 marked the start of a new decade and brought with it the unexpected arrival of a new normal with COVID-19. There are many influencing factors to consider across the value chain, with increasingly diverse requirements to address. The challenge for formulators is to create the technology of the future through partnerships between OEMs, industry bodies and lubricant trade channels. These intimate and effective partnership choices are the key to future success.

For more information about the future of passenger car lubricants, view the whole webinar here, or contact your Lubrizol representative.

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