Complimenting India’s plan of leapfrogging to BS VI by 2020, lubrication manufacturers are offering energy-efficient, cost-effective lubricants for auto OEMs.
Vehicles are characterised by long runs, rough terrains, and varied operating conditions and loads. Particularly in India, they operate under extreme weather or highly congested traffic conditions, or on poor to very poor roads in most regions. In rural areas, the roads are often non-existent or bad, turning worse during rainy season. This puts the engine and the powertrain system of a vehicle to strain. Frequent starting and stopping of a vehicle adversely affects the efficiency and wear life of the engine. This situation is inevitable in overcrowded urban roads, clogged with traffic jams.
Right lubricants, coupled with correct maintenance practices help optimise the operating costs of vehicles. Lubrication experts opine that better lubrication enables saving energy to the tune of 5 to 7 per cent. Taking into account adverse road conditions, new lubricants with redefined properties are introduced. OEMs are increasingly showing interest in tying up with lubricant manufacturers to introduce co-branded vehicle-specific oils, fluids, and lubricants.
Saving fuel with energy-efficient lubricants
Energy efficiency refers to reducing energy consumption in particular applications, with the help of engine enhancement or advanced lubrication technology. Says Vikas Meshram, Technical Sales, Pensol Industries Limited, “Fuel efficiency is dependent on many parameters of a vehicle, including its engine characteristics, aerodynamic drag, weight, and rolling resistance. There have been advances in all areas of vehicle design in recent decades. Fuel is required to move the piston to and fro for a better combustion process. A lubricant with non-uniform molecular structure resists traction between the oil layers. It increases fuel consumption for the same output as compared to uniform molecular synthetic engine oil.”
According to Meshram, low viscosity oil reduces friction between the oil layers and increases fuel economy. Lubricating oil is composed of base oil and additives. Similar to base oil, additives also impact fuel economy. Additives such as viscosity index improvers are polymers, which are plastics dissolved in oil to provide multi-grade viscosity characteristics. Just as some plastics are tougher, more brittle, or more heat resistant than others, different polymers have different characteristics.
Synthetic engine oil helps to achieve 3 to 6 per cent fuel economy through better lubrication, thereby reducing friction in the engine and helping the vehicle run more efficiently.
“Diesel engines generally achieve greater fuel efficiency than petrol (gasoline) engines. Passenger car diesel engines have energy efficiency of up to 41 per cent (more typically 30 per cent) and petrol engines of up to 37.3 per cent (more typically 20 per cent). This is one of the reasons why diesel vehicles have better fuel efficiency than their petrol car equivalents. A common margin is 25 per cent more miles per gallon for an efficient turbo diesel,” Meshram explains.
Industries are constantly striving to improve efficiency and operational reliability and enhance competitiveness by avoiding loss of output and maintenance costs. Akhil Jha, Vice President Technical, Shell Lubricants India, says, “We understand that industries are constantly striving to improve efficiency and operational reliability, and enhance competitiveness by avoiding loss of output and maintenance costs.
Collaborations with leading OEMs of different industries give us a chance to tackle some of the most exciting technology challenges, gain expertise in lubricant technology and then apply it in a way that benefits customers. When a new equipment is launched, either due to environmental norms or technological changes, it forces the equipment requirements to change and Shell Lubricants works with OEMs to develop lubricants to address these changes. With the increasing demand for productivity, the stress on equipment and hence lubricants has increased as well. We aim at addressing these lubricant-related challenges through technology that is not only cost-effective, but also energy efficient. Shell’s GTL Technology is an answer to the extreme operating conditions encountered by lubricants today. This technology makes it possible to use natural gas, rather than crude oil, as the raw material for a range of valuable liquid products. These include cleaner fuels for cars and planes, and high quality base oil for lubricants. GTL base oils can be used for the manufacture of lubricants that keep equipment operating smoothly and ensure optimum use of energy sources. For instance, Shell Lubricants’ energy efficient products like Shell Tellus S 4 ME offer advantage of improved energy efficiency and enhanced equipment protection and oil drain interval. Hence, such products offer benefits of lesser reject and waste oil, and help in making operations more sustainable..”
Oil disposal and recycling for a better environment
According to Jha, lubricants in any application eventually degrade to a point where they are no longer usable and must be removed from the machine and disposed. He elaborates, “On the vehicle side, a major role is played in powertrain and driveline assemblies. Energy efficient lubricants reduce the losses in engine, transmission and rear axles which collectively reflect into higher efficiency and thus improved fuel economy. This improvement is achieved by reducing the friction losses and churning losses between the moving parts. For effective utilization, the optimization on hardware front is very crucial. If the hardware is not well optimized, then the benefit due to lubrication will not be realised at full potential. Bearings play an important role in friction loss reduction, and thus low friction bearings with correct lubricant results into better mechanical efficiency.”
Jha further adds, “Shell Lubricants continues to be a leader in the development of fuel economy-enhancing lubricants, providing tangible fuel savings that can help lower operation and maintenance costs. These products enable extension of oil drain and greasing intervals. Extended lubricant life saves money by cutting maintenance costs and reducing product consumption. Using less oil and grease can also help reduce the environmental footprint of consumers and cut
Over the period, environment norms have become stringent due to increasing pollution levels from automotive vehicles. Environment safety body closely monitors the process of disposing used oil. Most oils have a range of chemical compositions in formulation and have unsaturated compounds that react with the environment. Meshram explains, “According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the definition of used oil is any oil that has been refined from crude oil, or any synthetic oil that has been used and, as a result of such use, is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities. This is the technical description for the oil that is drained out of your equipment.”
Components, subassemblies, and lubricants
In a vehicle, a major role is played by powertrain and driveline assemblies. Jha comments, “Energy-efficient lubricants reduce the losses in engine, transmission, and rear axles which collectively reflect in higher efficiency and thus improved fuel economy.” Meshram explains, “In engine assembly, the number of components affects the selection and performance of lubricants; for example, pistons, piston rings piston liner, valve train, camshaft, crankshaft, bearing, oil filter, cooling system. Lubricating oil has to perform better to reduce the friction and wear of engine and to increase the performance of the engine. Lubricating oil is used to circulate in the engine and lubricate all the components like piston, valves train, camshaft, and bearing.”
Classification of lubricants
Based on the operating environment, lubricating oils are broadly classified into mineral and synthetic oils. They are further categorised into automotive or industrial types, depending on the application. Mineral oil is derived from the crude oil distillation process followed by purification. Synthetic oil is produced by synthesising mineral oil with chemicals, both to impart new properties and to enhance the existing properties. Compared to mineral oil, synthetic oil performs better in a wide temperature range. “Synthetic oil has an operational life that is four to five times more than mineral oil. The performance of synthetic oil is far better in viscosity changes, high temperatures and speed, and high load applications. It is also compatible with metallurgy of different components,” says Meshram.
About the factors that influence lubricant manufacture, Jha says, “Due to the varying and demanding environments, today’s lubricants are developed to satisfy requirements specific to each application. The requirements can be the type of application, temperatures, load carrying capacity, or specification.”
Solution for engines
According to Jha, the appetites of two-stroke, four-stroke, petrol, and diesel engines are different and the lubrication requirements also vary. Similarly, engines running on petrol or diesel have different lubrication challenges owing to the different methods of combustion. During manufacture, lubricants undergo specific tests to categorise their performance. Thus, there should be clarity in the use of specific engine oils for particular applications.
Considering the same, they have the tendency to enable oxidation and acid development, which will tend to form of sludge, especially in high-temperature applications. This ultimately leads to inefficient operations. The verdict is that lubricants are essential for the efficient running of any vehicle. With the wide range of lubricants available in the market, by wisely selecting the right lubricant that suits the vehicle and driving conditions, a significant difference can be made both to the driving experience and to
“Extended lubricant life saves money by cutting maintenance costs and reducing product consumption.”
- Akhil Jha,
Vice President Technical,
Shell Lubricants India
Synthetic vs. mineral-based lubricants
In all industrial and automotive applications, synthetic lubricants are becoming more popular and are being used worldwide. While it is estimated that the current use of synthetic lubricants is about 6 per cent of the global lubricant consumption, it is expected to grow to about 10 per cent by 2020. Synthetic lubricants are chosen over mineral oils for a variety of benefits including better protection of components at varied temperatures, better lubricity, better oxidation and thermal stability, extended oil drain intervals and, more importantly, reduced energy consumption.
Mineral oils are derived from naturally-occurring crude stock that contains hydrocarbons, through different solvent-based refining processes. Since they will still have some impurities such as sulphur left behind, they have the tendency for oxidation and acid development, which form sludge especially in high-temperature applications. This ultimately leads to inefficient operations.
“Fuel efficiency is
dependent on many parameters of a vehicle, including its engine characteristics, aerodynamic drag, weight, and rolling resistance.”
- Vikas Meshram,
Pensol Industries Limited