By Matt Timmons
Vice President, OEM Engagement
Durability has long been one of the foundational missions of the lubricants industry. Moving parts need protection against wear and other factors; the lubricant provides that protection. And as it pertains to vehicle engines, “durability” has traditionally been associated with how long a single oil drain can provide the necessary performance an application demands.
But in today’s industry, the ways of defining and characterizing “durability” are changing and expanding, driven by several evolving trends and recent events. It’s an important discussion for our industry to be having at every level.
How do we define “durability” in today’s industry? It’s no longer just about the expected engine protection anymore. It’s about vehicle lifecycle expectation, and performance under real-world conditions faced by drivers over the course of many years.
This shift has been spurred by a few different factors, the first and most important being the “dieselgate” scandal that rocked the global automotive industry in 2015, which continues to have major reverberations. Clean Wire Energy tracks the timeline of the scandal itself along with the fallout: The extensive illegal manipulation of diesel engine Mobile sources - Pollutant exhaust gases created by the combustion of fuel. Water and CO2 are not included in this category, but CO, NOx, and hydrocarbons are and are thus subject to legislative control. All three are emitted by gasoline engines, while diesel engines also emit particulates that are regulated. Stationary sources - The release of sulfur oxides and particulates from power stations that can be influenced by fuel composition. Local authorities control the sulfur content of heavy fuel oils used in such applications. spurred widespread outrage among regulators and consumers who believed they were making conscientious vehicle purchases.
The ramifications have been significant, and emphasis has begun to shift toward real-world results in the place of test lab certification. And it’s no wonder: in 2017, independent research organization International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that the average real-world level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions is 4.5 times above the Euro 6 limit. Only 10 percent of Euro 6 cars outperform the Euro 6 limit, while the rest of vehicles exceed the Euro 6 standard by up to 12 times.
More from ICCT:
The ICCT analysis not only includes NOx testing results but also adds information on the real-world carbon dioxide (CO2) performance for each vehicle model… For the Euro 5 and Euro 6 vehicles included in the study, covering the model years 2011 to 2015, the average CO2 divergence was approximately 30%. The discrepancy among newer vehicles is even higher, with 2015 passenger cars on average emitting 40% more CO2 and consuming 40% more fuel than advertised.
As such, Europe is beginning to shift toward a framework of “in use compliance,” and similar moves are being made globally. OEMs ultimately bear the responsibility here, and must ensure new vehicles are meeting an evolving expectation at the global regulatory level. It’s the necessity of long-term vehicle durability: that vehicles are working the same way throughout their useful life, not simply in test labs before they ever hit the streets. The increasing prevalence of real-time in-car diagnostics is further hastening this shift toward long-term, holistic durability, by granting automakers the ability to monitor for acceptable performance throughout a vehicle’s life.
At Lubrizol, we believe that higher performance vehicle fluids are essential to achieving this new normal in the automotive industry. Lubricants and fuels continue to play the same vital function for the reliable operation of vehicles around the world—if anything they’re more important than ever. Fluids impact engine performance, diesel particulate filters, catalytic converters, and much more. OEMs that incorporate these advanced fluids as an integral design element will be advantaged accordingly in this emerging scenario and, by extension, should also be actively advocating and promoting for the use of these advanced fluids in field as their vehicles move thru their serviceable life.
Our view: As emissions regulations grow tighter and as regulatory bodies grow stricter, the level of sophistication in any new vehicle grows exponentially. And as that happens, the overall reliability and durability of those vehicles depends on high-performing fluids in achieving optimized hardware design as well as protecting the OEM’s equipment for the length of a vehicle’s useful life.