Industry Trends Shifting as China 6 Approaches

Major changes are just around the corner for China’s lubricants industry, as the nation gears up to officially implement the China 6 emissions standards. Junmin Zhao, business manager, engine oils, spoke at F+L Week Asia 2019 in Singapore, sharing insights into the challenges posed to automakers and lubricant manufacturers.

With continued vehicle parc growth, the trend of tightening emissions standards has no end in sight. Once fully implemented next year, China 6 will become the most stringent vehicle emissions standard to date, raising China’s emissions standards above those of even the European Union.

To cope with the massive adjustment to emissions and fuel-economy regulations, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEM) have focused their efforts on hardware optimization, such as increased use of turbocharged gasoline direct injection (TGDI) engines in passenger vehicles, improved after-treatment systems and wider use of gasoline particulate filters (GPF). Based on our conversations with industry stakeholders, we estimate that more than 80% of new passenger cars will be equipped with GPFs by 2020, which is sure to create new challenges for hardware as well as the lubricants. In order to survive this round of adjustments, the auto market is in urgent need of new lubricant solutions.

What are the three essential factors of China 6 era lubricants? Low sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulfur (SAPS), high performance and low viscosity.

  • The low SAPS requirement mainly results from the increased use of GPFs and diesel particulate filters (DPF) as well as increased importance of after-treatment system compatibility in lubricant formula design.
  • The popularity of TGDI engines has also led to a new set of concerns for OEMs, such as the increased occurrence of low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI) and engine wear caused by unsatisfactory lubricants. As some of these problems can cause massive engine damages, OEMs are increasingly concerned about lubricant durability and performance.
  • The global trend of lower viscosity grade lubricants to meet stringent fuel-efficiency requirements creates the additional challenge of protecting engines from wear while maintaining high efficiency.

Successful implementation of China 6 will require lubricants that effectively reduce engine wear, prevent LSPI, reduce ash build-up, avoid blockage of GPF or DPF systems, etc. That’s why Lubrizol has invested heavily in R&D and field testing in China, conducting millions of kilometers of field tests on TGDI passenger and commercial vehicles to determine the real-world impacts of lubricants with varying ash content, performance levels and viscosity on fuel economy and hardware durability.

Our View
In response to these findings, Lubrizol recommends that OEMs and lubricant manufacturers make lubricant technology upgrade a top priority in order to realize longer-term engine protection and vehicle emissions that meet the China 6 requirements.

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