Industry Urged to Eye Design Changes


NEW ORLEANS – Lubricant marketers should monitor new automotive engine technologies – both large changes and smaller ones – to keep abreast of potential developments in lube performance demands, an industry insider said at a conference here.

Lubricants enable technology change in engines, but technology change in engines will drive formulations and change the balance of what you need to consider as a marketer or an oil company in putting a product out into the marketplace, Scott Rajala, Idemitsu Lubricants America Corp.’s senior regional chief engineer, said at Active Communication International‘s U.S. Base Oils and Lubricants Summit in New Orleans on Aug. 29. “With the advent and the acceleration of turbocharger engines, [gasoline turbocharged direct injection] and all these other things that we’ve put in place, were going to see more and more of these [technology changes],” Rajala said.

He cited several emerging technologies that stand to impact lubricants, including cylinder pressure sensing, dilute combustion engines and electric and hybrid drivetrains. A cylinder pressure sensor works in conjunction with an engine control unit to provide improved combustion control. A dilute combustion engine dilutes fuel with either excess intake air or recirculated exhaust gas. It is usually designed to produce reduced emission levels while improving fuel economy.

“Nissan has the new variable compression engine – pretty interesting technology,” Rajala said. According to Nissan’s website, the technology is designed to simultaneously achieve high efficency and high power while synchronizing with the drivers intentions by enabling free control of the engine’s compression ratio.

“Many of what appear to be little changes in engine technology have potential to cause large impacts on engine oil performance needs,” he said. Stop-start engines initially seemed to be one example. A vehicle with auto stop-start technology – such as the Chevrolet Cruze sedan – is designed to conserve fuel by shutting down the vehicles engine when the vehicle halts at a stop sign or traffic light. The engine returns to life when the driver takes their foot off the brake pedal.

“That affected potential performance for engine oils, but we didn’t see a lot of change,” he said. “But we could see where some other small technological introduction may have an impact on what the lubricant needs to do.”

Rajala explained that when engine technology changes bring about different operation procedures and different systems, they also brings questions.

“Pick any one of these new technologies that’s being introduced by an OEM and you have to consider does the engine operate at the same temperature? Is it idle for longer? Is there more condensation collected? Do you need to protect against emulsions differently than you do today?” he said. “There are so many different things you can do from a technological standpoint with an engine that could seriously impact the operational areas for a lubricant, you really need to pay attention. As much as I said a lubricant can drive change for an engine, the reverse can be true.”

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