Changing the world – one litre at a time

Every day, the motor industry is working ha to meet the anticipated 100% increase in global demand for transport by 2050* while limiting the impact this will place upon Earth’s resources and the increasing emissions.

The impact of motor oil is critical to helping the rapid evolution of our automotive world towards its intended goals.

Some remarkable feats of engineering have already been achieved. Indeed, even while the number of vehicles on the road increases year-on-year, today’s traffic consumes an average of 35% less fuel than in 1996, while the volume of airborne particulates has been reduced by more than 96% in the same period.

We are now used to seeing average-sized cars with 1litre engines thanks to the prodigious power available from direct common rail fuel injection and turbos. These engines feature an abundance of lighter weight components requiring less energy to move, with an additional layer of complexity such as exhaust after-treatment units, like DPFs, to further reduce environmental impact.

This makes the average car engine a much more highly stressed environment for motor oil. It’s the oil that’s responsible for keeping all of this technology operating reliably while managing the sort of temperatures, pressures and rpm levels previously unseen in normal car engines.

This has resulted in the current generation of lower high temperature high shear (HTHS) engine oils, for use in engines where viscosity is a critical property that relates to the fuel economy and durability. HTHS viscosity is the measurement of how well fully warmed engine oil flows in critical contact areas such as the ring interface, valve-train and gear contacts.

The drivers behind lowering HTHS viscosity are new global governmental regulations to improve fuel economy (FE) and lower greenhouse gases (GHG) in new vehicles. Lower HTHS viscosity tends to improve FE and lower GHG but higher HTHS viscosity affords better wear protection, so a careful balance must be found when formulating engine oil now and in the future.

One example of this new breed of oil is Comma’s Eco-LLP 0W-20, designed to deliver excellent fuel economy performance through an improved HTHS viscosity of 2.6 versus 3.5 stipulated in previous standards. This generation of motor oils works wonders for the latest highly-stressed engines but are not backwardly compatible with previous generation engines – which could mean a costly failure.

To help ensure compatibility and avoid costly mistakes, the new low HTHS oils supplied by Comma stand out from their traditional counterparts with a unique colour and zirconium based chemical marker to ensure the use of the correct and authentic product.

“It’s an inspiring time to be working in the automotive industry,” said Mike Bewsey, Sales and Marketing Director at Comma. “There is a sense that at every level we’re working collectively to meet the challenges posed by rapidly increasing demand being set against the global need to minimise environmental impact – and the latest generation of motor oils are a vital link in both sides of the process.

As a scientific and engineering challenge it’s tremendous, but of course real-world factors are always going to make the difference between success and failure. That’s why, when introducing new technology, it is all the more important for customers to be aware of the precise grade of oil being used.

* According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) there are almost one billion cars on the world’s roads and it is estimated that this will double by 2050.

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