By Julie Edgar
Chief Sustainability Officer

A notable project out of Clemson University caught our attention in mid-May. In collaboration with Honda R&D Americas, the university’s automotive engineering students will be working to develop a sustainability-focused concept vehicle that could theoretically be marketable by 2035.

According to the university, “The goal is to develop an ultra-efficient, lightweight, highly durable mobility solution for the year 2035 and beyond.” Deep Orange 11, as the project is called, “emphasizes sustainability across the entire product life cycle—from manufacture and operation to reclamation and refurbishing in a circular economy model.”

Specifically, I liked seeing that the concept vehicle seeks to unite several critical components toward greater sustainability. Ultra-efficient, yes—but also lightweight and durable, contributing to an extended, long-lasting product life cycle. It’s further evidence that markets continue to change, and the need for greater sustainability is the driver. We’ve written in recent weeks about how electrification will be driving seismic change in the mobility space in the coming years and decades; the driving force behind that, of course, is the need to reduce our society’s dependence on fossil fuels for its energy needs. See another piece of news from May 15: Volvo announced a multibillion-dollar deal with the Chinese battery technology manufacturer CATL, signaling that it intends to meet its expectation that 50% of its global sales volume by 2025 will be comprised of electric vehicles.

These are just a few examples. Moves are being made and collaboration is occurring across industries and across the globe, all in the pursuit of a more sustainable future for transportation.

It’s important to remember that true sustainable mobility is more than just alternative and clean energy. It’s a comprehensive consideration that must account for how a vehicle or piece of equipment is manufactured; the materials used to manufacture it; the waste generated through that process; the total product life cycle; and the biodegradability of the product once its useful life has ended. Each of these factors must be considered in the design and development of products and services—in any industry—now and into the future.

And certainly, none of this is easy to accomplish. For example, in an extensive report exploring the future of mobility, Deloitte notes the following:

Automakers are experimenting and inventing, and have passionate voices within their ranks describing much-altered futures. In our ongoing conversations with various auto industry leaders, they repeatedly and collectively argue that outsiders simply do not appreciate the sheer complexity of developing a vehicle today, the challenge of introducing new advanced technologies into a vehicle’s architecture, or the rigor and inertia of the regulatory environment. All of this may encourage incumbents to believe that they can be at the center of actively managing the timing and pace of these converging forces.

The implications of radical change in the power and drivetrain are significant. In our work with global OEMs in their pursuit of sustainable, autonomous, and electrified new technologies, Lubrizol has seen some of these challenges at close range. Electrification may be what grabs the headlines, but sustainability and emissions reduction efforts are occurring everywhere in vehicles today. For instance, lighter-weight designs continue to gain traction. Ford made a splash when it converted the body of its F-150—the bestselling vehicle in the United States—to aluminum several years ago. And in the pursuit of greater efficiency, material choices like that of aluminum over steel could be making their way to the engine itself sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, other techniques are being pursued. Oil sump sizes are being reduced. Transmission design is evolving to contribute greater fuel efficiency.

Each of these things has major implications for the fluids used in the vehicle. The interaction between lubricating fluids and engine parts is fundamentally altered when different metallurgic formulations get involved. A smaller engine sump increases engine oil strain, for example. And high-performing fluid technologies are essential to the proper performance of an evolving transmission.

These new types of vehicle architecture require complementary technology from strategic partners that can deliver on new demands and changing needs. It’s all part of how lubricant and fluid technology can drive new efficiencies for dramatic reductions in emissions, and how that same technology can contribute to greater durability, for longer and more sustainable life cycles.

Our view: Sustainability is part of our driving mission at Lubrizol, and we’re working hard to bring that mission to our customers’ products and solutions across every industry, be it passenger cars, heavy duty trucking, off-highway machinery and beyond. We’re committed to helping our customers reduce their own emissions and footprints through the use of our solutions, and to contributing to longer, more sustainable product life cycles.

In broader sustainability terms, it’s not just engine and vehicle technology where chemical technology can make a major impact. We believe chemistry will play an integral role in solving the world’s sustainability challenges in the coming years—and at Lubrizol, it’s a fundamental driver of our business, and how we’ll continue to deliver innovation to our customers, today and well into the future.

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