Auto industry stakeholders have kept their eyes intently on China over the past several years, and for good reason.

China continues to undergo a period of steady growth in commercial vehicle population. From 2010 to 2014, the number of medium and heavy duty vehicle trucks in use in China increased by almost 50% to around 23 million trucks. Continued growth will result in an estimated 35 million trucks being in operation across China by 2020.

China I emission standard for heavy-duty diesel vehicles was implemented in 2000, and the standard has been progressing since then. Today’s heavy duty diesel market adheres to China IV, a standard comparable to Euro IV. China V has already started across some Chinese Sub-National Regions, with Beijing also requiring the fitting of Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) on new public buses and municipal service vehicles from the start of 2016.

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As part of its continued commitment to reduce harmful emissions, government policies to replace up to 6 million old trucks by 2020 are supporting the demand for new high-end, China IV, V and VI emissions engines compliant trucks. OEMs are evolving their hardware to comply with these limits, resulting in engines that run hotter with higher loads and require a higher performance engine oil to be used.

For China’s heavy duty diesel commercial vehicles, the further development of these emissions standards is necessitating changes in engine hardware such as the fitting of DPFs and Selective Catalytic Reduction Devices (SCRs) . These advances, are leading to the need for higher performing lubricants, including the use of low sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur (SAPS) lubricants as a key enabling technology for DPFs.

The tangible benefits from this shift in lubricant performance are many. Higher performance lubricants provide increased wear control, soot handling, piston deposit control, corrosion control, oxidation control and fuel economy improvements, all contributing to optimized vehicle performance while minimizing costs for truck owners over vehicle lifetimes.

The transition to higher performing lubricants in China has already begun, witnessing the reduction in API CF-4 and below category engine oils, to the increase in API CH-4, API CI-4 and API CJ-4 oils along with OEM approvals.

At the same time, the movement from monograde and 20W viscosity grade oils to 15W grades is being seen; as well as the growth in the lighter 10W and 5W grades, as the benefits of lower viscosity oils are being recognized as supporting reduced emission, increased fuel economy vehicles without sacrificing durability.

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Left: Projected growth of higher performance lubricant demand (API CH-4 and above) in Chinese heavy duty diesel market through 2020.
Right: Projected growth of lowering viscosity grades in Chinese heavy duty diesel market through 2020.

Moving up to higher performance lubricants benefits all stakeholders, from OEMs and oil marketers to fleet managers and end users. Choosing higher performance solutions today also boosts readiness for a tomorrow where those solutions are not only desirable, but mandatory. It’s a change that’s occurring around the world, and that is essential to an evolving global industry.

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