Motorsport EV fluids: lubricating the future of mobility

Developments in Shell Global Solutions’ motorsport e-fluid portfolio could find their way into passenger cars. By Elle Farrell-Kingsley

With the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs), the automotive industry is going through a profound shift. The global e-fluids market was valued at US$752m in 2021 and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of 27.8% from 2021 to 2030, according to a recent global market study by Quince Market Insights. At the same time, EV production is expected to account for 50% of all vehicles over the next decade.

Special report: Electric vehicle fluids

However, the complexity increases as vehicles move to electric motors using e-fluids. “Although some may believe an electric motor would make developing fluids easier, it’s not—especially if you go to the more integrated parts where you need to find the right balance between copper," says Leonard Kieckebusch, Shell Global Solutions' Project Leader for the development of its e-fluid range and race fluid for Formula E.

Finding the right balance is especially important concerning copper, as various fluid technologies react to the metal differently, which is one of the main challenges for Kieckebusch's team. "For wet motors, you want an oil that cools effectively but does not destroy the copper parts or cause corrosion. That would result in inefficiencies and breakdowns," he adds. "All the parts need to be both compatible and durable."

Shell’s portfolio

Kieckebusch states that thermal fluids are the most innovative part of Shell's e-fluids portfolio. Based on non-corrosive, zero sulphur base oil (GTL) technology and designed for a range of high and low temperatures, Shell’s E-Thermal Fluid E5 M has been engineered for batteries, electric motors, inverters and fast chargers. These fluids can be used for general cooling of the e-motor and provide direct thermal management for battery cells. "We are working on a very innovative concept of immersion cooling," he says. "Our hydrocarbon-based lubricant cools the battery while also enabling very efficient, high-performance charging."

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