By Craig Paterson
Vice President, Product Management

If you work in the automotive industry, you know that greater fuel efficiency and the reduction of car emissions have been top priorities for a long time. The elimination of greenhouse gases by means of increasing fuel economy is one benefit. Saving drivers some pain at the pump is another.

We know that new engine technology is essential to reaching a more efficient future. It’s the reason that turbocharged gasoline direction injection (TGDI) engines are becoming more popular. By 2024, it’s expected that vehicles equipped with TGDI engines will make up 83 percent of the U.S. vehicle population.

We’ve touched on why shops, fleets and oil servicers need to be on top of this massive trend and its implications for service fill engine oil choice in recent weeks. But there’s more to this story, and it’s important that everyone working in the automotive industry today understand the implications.

Engine oil is an important part of the equation when it comes to higher fuel efficiency. Whether it’s direct efficiency benefits from lower viscosity fluids, or the enablement of new engine technology, lubricants matter in how we collectively reach the efficiency goals.

API SN Plus offers us a good example of what’s at stake here. API SN Plus supplements the existing ILSAC GF-5 specification used for engine oils on the broad scales, most available engine oil in the market is able to mitigate low speed pre-ignition (LSPI) in TGDI engines. It’s a positive step, and it’s important for all industry stakeholders to be educated on API SN Plus.

Here’s the catch: Automakers and oil marketers originally intended to replace ILSAC GF-5 two years ago. And as it stands today, it won’t be replaced until 2020 at the earliest. Learn more here.

The implications? ILSAC GF-6, the intended replacement for ILSAC GF-5, contains a multitude of heightened performance criteria for the lubricant—not just LSPI. One of the critical improvements in the proposed specification is, in fact, fuel economy. It’s a significant performance increase, and one that will have a real societal benefit once ILSAC GF-6-certified lubricants are widely available in the marketplace.

But given the delay in specification development, the majority of cars utilizing modern engine oil have yet to benefit from greater fuel efficiency. A comprehensive figure is virtually impossible to calculate—but it must certainly be significant. Not to mention that, for service shops, the delays here have been preventing higher value engine oils from hitting your shelves.

Our view: To be sure, there have been legitimate, unforeseen challenges with the development of ILSAC GF-6’s engine tests. But what we may have lost in fuel efficiency serves to illustrate the urgency with which we ought to be attacking the challenges that keep our industry from innovating.

The onus to fix these issues rests with the lubricant industry. And it stands to reason that all parties understand what’s at stake if our current model for specifying engine oil performance remains as-is.

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