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Lubricants fuel efficiency gains

Lubricants are playing a key role in the way motor vehicles are designed for the future. The combustion engine is unlikely to become obsolete within the next 25 to 30 years. Add to this the increasingly sharp focus of legislators on emissions and it is clear that investment in lubricant research and development is an increasingly important tool for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the drive for greater fuel efficiency. By embracing this cutting edge technology and taking a joint approach, OEMs can not only satisfy the emissions regulation challenge but also help their customers use less fuel at the same time.

It is clear that investment in lubricant research and development is an increasingly important tool for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the drive for greater fuel efficiency

The issue of emissions, and in particular CO2, is one that has been taken very seriously by legislators across the globe. The European Union (EU) in particular accounts for 14% of both energy consumption and CO2 emissions. EU legislators have introduced a series of challenging targets for OEMs with the aim of reducing CO2 for road vehicle emissions to 95 grams per kilometre from 2020, whilst for vans the target level is 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre. This line in the sand represents a substantial incentive to OEMs and highlights the need to take collective responsibility on this issue. Non-compliance is not an option, so there has never been a better time to capitalise on the vehicle efficiency benefits that engines, transmissions and final drive lubricants can offer.

So, typically, what kind of fuel efficiency savings can a lubricant offer? Today, with the best technology, in the conventional development environment we can achieve efficiency benefits of around 2.5%. Shell looked to explore just how much benefit could be derived by using a co-engineering approach with an OEM partner. Shell has been able to push the boundaries even further and has worked in collaboration with automotive designers at Gordon Murray Design, where the team discarded all OEM engineering specifications and achieved fuel efficiency savings of 6.5%.

With design teams working hand in glove, components and the lubricant can be engineered specifically to draw out maximum efficiencies.

The key to this 6.5% figure is the technical partnership between OEM and lubricant manufacturer. With design teams working hand in glove, components and the lubricant can be engineered specifically to draw out maximum efficiencies. In a conventional development process, specifications are set and lubricant manufacturers are then asked to respond with a formulation meeting those criteria, leaving a very small window for conventional innovation. By partnering with a lubricant manufacturer at a much earlier stage, an OEM could achieve superior fuel efficiency and a parallel reduction in CO2 emissions.

Shell Lubricants places innovation and the importance of technical partnerships at the heart of modern lubricant production for the automotive sector, and has the capability to test and develop high quality lubricants with high calibre technical partners such as Ferrari and Daimler. By looking above and beyond normal horizons and developing a concept lubricant in tandem with an OEM, it is clear that major fuel efficiency and emissions savings can be made. However, with legislators and vehicle owners looking for less polluting, more efficient ways of driving, we continue to work hard within and outside of current parameters so that we can offer tangible and significant benefits in the medium and longer term.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Selda Gunsel is Vice President of Lubricants and B2B Products Technology at Shell

Shell was named the number one global lubricants supplier for the fourth consecutive year in an annual research study carried out by Kline & Company in 2010. For more information, visit http://www.shell.com/home/content/lubes/

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