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View From The Bridge - November 2017

The drive to constantly improve lubricants specifications seems to be a rapidly accelerating process – although the timescales are still measured in years rather than months.  The news that the ILSAC GF-6 tests are nearing completion sets another milestone for the industry – but the inevitable technical gremlins mean that introduction is unlikely before 2020.

As we’ve said in many previous introductions to the OATS Bulletin, the role of the lubes industry in helping to meet OEM emissions and fuel consumption targets through the development of ever-more sophisticated product, is critical to the whole process.

Both OEMs and lubes producers are certainly under no illusions about the targets and challenges they face from the regulators. However, the European drive to reduce emissions and ‘encourage’ OEMs towards even better engine performance and efficiency may provide the latest reality check.   The latest type approval (homologation) tests have highlighted not only how big the task has become, but also that OEMs are constantly trying to hit a moving target.

While the automakers were certainly expecting the new tests to increase the emissions ratings of their vehicles by perhaps two or three percent, researchers have discovered that the Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) is increasing emissions stats by as much at 16% on certain models.

The impact on both manufacturers and consumers could be dramatic.  With all vehicles on sale in the EU having to go through the homologation procedure by the end of August next year, it’s highly likely that many, if not all, carmakers could miss the 130g/km target set for 2019. That would mean significant fines (the research estimates around €1bn for starters), with knock-on vehicle tax increases for consumers.

The news only serves to highlight the need for an even closer development relationship between the OEMs and the fuel and lubes industry. With China and many US states (if not the Federal regulators) also pushing the emissions targets to the limits of current technology, it is little wonder that researchers are looking at water as an effective lubricant.

Nor is it a surprise that Shell has started to roll-out EV charging points at its service stations, indicating a serious commitment to boosting the EV infrastructure with its purchase of European charging point provider, NewMotion. It's a clever strategy, with Shell's ReCharge units sited at stations where there is not only significant traffic, but also on-site café and shopping facilities where consumers can spend time while their vehicle charges.

However, make no mistake, while the renewable future may be upon us, Shell and its competitors are continuing to develop ever-higher performing fuels and lubricant products as part of their wider role in oiling the wheels of the automotive, marine and other industries. To paraphrase Mark Twain: reports of the death of the lubes industry is an exaggeration.

As always, OATS will be working hard to provide a clear vision of the present and the future for the lubricants and OEM sectors.  As that future includes an imminent Festive Season for many, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all restful holidays.

To find out more about how OATS can help meet your lubricants data needs, simply contact us via e-mail.

Peter van der Galiën and the OATS team.

Tags: electric vehicles, Europe, Lubricants, Shell, View from the Bridge

Published 17th November, 2017

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