Shell develops new concept synthetic lubricant for engines; up to 6.5% fuel economy benefit on urban cycle

A collaboration between research teams at Shell and Gordon Murray Design (GMD) recently led to the development of an innovative concept engine lubricant capable of achieving a 6.5% improvement in fuel efficiency on an urban cycle, and a 4.6% benefit on a combined cycle.

Using GMD’s new T.25 city car as the test bed, Shell engineers formulated an ultra low viscosity 0W-10 motor oil. The testing undertaken compares this concept lubricant to a 10W-30 oil which is a widely used viscosity in European markets. The T.25, designed to have world-leading efficiency and ultra-low emissions, features low weight and a very small engine for high fuel efficiency.

Blending low viscosity oil to improve fuel efficiency is actually relatively simple; the challenge comes when you look to balance it with engine protection and acceptable oil drain intervals. There are products on the market that have made great strides in achieving this balance, such as Shell Helix Ultra but they have to work within the parameters of current industry specifications. We believe that now is the time to start looking at lubricant technology that goes beyond current specifications to enhance the efficiency of the cars of tomorrow.

Although in the concept stage, this represents a major advancement in lubricant technology; what we have learnt feeds in to the products we are developing for use in the near future. Of course, engine oil is just one part of the fuel efficiency story, but when we take into account the pressure and incentives for vehicle manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions the contribution from lubricants can become very significant. This is due to the fact that with less engine friction comes less fuel use and ultimately less CO2 is emitted.

—Selda Gunsel, Vice President Lubricants and B2B Products Technology at Shell Lubricants

Shell’s portfolio of lubricant brands includes Pennzoil, Quaker State, Shell Rotella T, Shell Helix, Shell Rimula, Shell Tellus, Monarch and Jiffy Lube. Shell has leading lubricants research centers in Germany, Japan (joint venture with Showa Shell), UK, and the USA.

In 2002, Shell acquired Pennzoil-Quaker State Company to become the No. 1 lubricants marketer in the USA. Pennzoil motor oil has been one of the leading motor oil brands in the USA since 1985. In 2006, Shell acquired a 75% share in Tongyi, which is China’s leading independent lubricant manufacturer. Today Shell is the leading international lubricants supplier in China and has the third largest share of China’s rapidly growing market.

In November 2009, Shell opened its sixth lube oil blending plant in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China. With a production capacity of 200 million liters a year, and the potential for a phased development to 400 million litres a year, the complex could become one of Shell’s top three lubricants blending plants worldwide in volume terms.

(A hat-tip to Ray!)

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