Every lubricant is designed for a purpose, a specific duty, or a particular type of engine, to ensure that it not only provides protection to moving components, but also contributes to fuel economy, vehicle efficiency and the reduction of exhaust emissions.

Advanced engine technology requires higher performing lubricants


With modern engines now producing almost double the power-per-liter of their equivalents just 20 years ago, the gradual evolution and technological advancement of engine design has presented oil manufacturers with a range of challenges.

Not only do the lubricants need to deal with higher temperatures and increased stresses due to higher power outputs from smaller capacity engines, they also must handle the demand for lower viscosities to reduce oil ‘churn’ resistance. Furthermore, lubricants must modify formulations to protect exhaust aftertreatment devices from being contaminated by combustion by-products.

With so many demands on the everyday lubricant, it is essential that all oils are capable of meeting automotive manufacturers’ specifications as well as the ‘service fill’ market.

ACEA who?

ACEA (Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobiles) was formed in 1991 and is commonly known as the European Automotive Manufacturers Association, which represents 15 of Europe’s most important passenger car, van, truck and bus manufacturers who own and produce a range of well-known vehicle brands.

Prior to the formation of ACEA, the body responsible for lubricant testing and formulation in Europe was CCMC (Comité des Constructeurs du Marché Commun), the Committee of Common Market Automobile Constructors, which was founded in 1972.

At the time, a key part of the CCMC’s role was to develop lubricant testing and formulation procedures that built on the API (American Petroleum institute) lubricants, to make them more appropriate to European vehicles. Typically, API lubricants were tested with large-capacity, slow-running V8 engines, which dominated the US market, while European vehicles tended to have higher-revving, smaller-capacity engines.

As a result, the first CCMC sequences were published in 1975 by its fuels and lubricants working group, which introduced additional requirements and testing beyond the API designations, tailored to European manufacturers and markets. Extensive revisions to engine manufacturer prototype testing were introduced in 1984, and again in 1991, at which point it was replaced by ACEA.

While ACEA’s role is extremely diverse and covers areas including international trade, knowledge transfer, policy making, market analysis and strategy, it is best known within the oil industry for its range of lubricant specifications, the ACEA ‘Oil Sequences’, which were first published in 1996.

USA Circa 1970s V8
Europe Circa 1970s

The Oil Sequences are created to ensure that all service-fill lubricants not only meet the requirements of the manufacturers’ engine and vehicle technologies, but also define the minimum engine oil performance standard.

In addition to meeting the needs of vehicle manufacturers, ACEA also works with two other industry groups when developing the specifications and testing lubricant requirements. ATIEL represents lubricant manufacturers, whilst ATC is the technical committee that represents the additive industry.

Apart from providing a framework for lubricant manufacturers and oil additive specialists on which to develop new formulations and testing regimes, the Oil Sequences also allow oil marketers to make claims for their respective products about their suitability for specific vehicle types and applications.

However, as new formulations are developed, cut-off dates are imposed by ACEA, which restrict the marketing of particular grades of lubricant covered by an earlier version of the Oil Sequences, particularly where the formulation chemistry has been superseded and testing procedures have changed.

Dealing with Diversity As Europe is one of the world’s most diverse and complex vehicle markets with large numbers of OEMs, differing fuel types and wide geo-demographic variations, it is not feasible or practical to attempt to develop a set of minimum performance requirements to satisfy all needs, applications and duty cycles.

2015 new passenger cars in the EU by fuel type1,2


Source: EEA
1Includes pure electric, liquefied petroleum gas vehicles (LPG), natural gas vehicles, (E85), biodiesel and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
2Provisional data

In addition, inevitable changes to legislations and regulations affecting the automotive industry, including both environment- and emission-related protocols, not only have an impact on vehicle hardware design, but also on lubricants.

To address these constantly evolving needs, the ACEA Oil Sequences are regularly updated to ensure that the minimum performance levels reflect the oil characteristics and quality needed by vehicles in use.

Recognizing these diverse conditions and an ever-changing regulatory framework, ACEA adopted a two-tier alpha-numeric system for its Oil Sequences, which not only provide a clear point of reference, but also a high degree of flexibility, allowing new ‘Sequences’ and specifications to be added when necessary. To learn more about the ACEA framework, read The ABCs of ACEA.

Looking ahead

With environmental regulations and vehicle emissions legislation becoming increasingly stringent for heavy-duty vehicles, as well as passenger cars, manufacturers are developing innovative emission controls and engine technologies to meet these targets.

To underline the increasingly rapid pace of automotive and lubricant development, ACEA is introducing a major update to its Oil Sequences in 2016. Whilst it incorporates relatively minor updates to the HD sector, it is also significant for passenger cars. It represents a substantial upgrade with an increased focus on the growing use of bio-fuels and the development of suitable lubricants. This upgrade will have an impact on the types of lubricants, their formulations and additive chemistry.

Furthermore, as many vehicles are now being manufactured in Asia, for export to Europe, Asian manufacturers also need to comply with the ACEA Oil Sequences and testing regimes to ensure vehicles are compliant and meet the required ACEA standards.

As a result, ACEA’s role has never been more important and Lubrizol is ideally positioned to lead and support this change through innovation.