Agreements Near for GF-6

Automakers and the lubricant industry are closer to wrapping up the long-delayed ILSAC GF-6 passenger car motor oil category after the International Lubricant Standardization and Advisory Committee issued a Jan. 31 response to a plan proposed by the American Chemistry Council last month.

By moving closer to test limits proposed by the ACC, ILSAC improved chances that first licensing could occur by the second quarter of 2020, which is roughly the target for automakers.

This exchange between ILSAC and ACC regarding GF-6 is a positive sign the specification is moving closer to implementation, said Angela Willis of Willis Advanced Consulting.

Industry representatives developing GF-6 have finished initial designing of most of the engine and bench tests that make up the specification and are now in the tech demo period when formulators try to develop oils that can meet its requirements. Findings from that work are factored in to finalizing pass-fail limits for the various tests. Agreement between these stakeholders is critical to finalizing the specification and the timing for first allowable use.

ILSAC currently targets first allowable use to be in April 2020, but many industry observers have said the current trajectory would likely push the date about six months later, to October 2020. Bringing the category to market earlier could be critical to allowing use of the new improved fluids in model year 2021 vehicles and to encouraging wider use of SAE 0W-16 oils as part of GF-6B, a category for oils that help improve fuel economy. The latest developments raise the prospect that the gap could be closed to meet the automaker goal on timing. Much work remains, but it now appears very possible that first allowable use could occur during the second quarter of 2020.

Negotiating the targets for fuel economy improvement from ILSAC GF-5 to ILSAC GF-6 is central to finalizing the new specification. Other improvement items are also important but will probably be easier to negotiate. For example, in its Jan. 31 response, ILSAC reduced its target improvement for Fuel Economy Index Sum for SAE XW-20 grades from 41 percent to 19 percent. ACC included an improvement of just under 13 percent in its proposal last month.

For SAE XW-30, ILSAC reduced its target improvement from 48 percent to 24 percent. ACC has suggested 16 percent. For GF-6B, ILSAC reduced its proposed improvement from 27 percent to 16 percent, whereas ACC suggested 11 percent. Similar changes were made for other parameters and SAE grades, reflecting significant efforts by both sides to meet each others expectations.

ILSAC also offered to reduce weighted piston deposits improvement to 4.2 merits, very close to ACCs offer of 4.1 merits. The ACC may yet ask to further reduce the number if there is a push to raise fuel economy performance. It is difficult to improve deposit protection and fuel economy simultaneously because additives that improve deposit protection tend to negatively impact fuel economy.

I believe the difficult areas of negotiation will continue to be Sequence VIE and Sequence IVB, Willis said. The Sequence VIE test measures contribution to fuel economy while the Sequence IVB measures wear. Fuel economy continues to be extremely important to the OEMs. Engine wear remains important to the OEMs - upholding the original draft limits for Sequence IVB by ILSAC shows that.However, even with these areas of difficulty, I am very optimistic the specification can be finalized by mid-year.

ILSACs response did not close the gap on two wear tests, as the automaker group stuck to its original proposals. Statisticians are evaluating a chain wear test, and their work will help finalize the precision of the test and resulting specification. The bigger gap is on the new Sequence IVB test, which still has some unknowns due to the many changes that have been made to it. These changes haves been agreed to, and Base Oil Interchange/ Viscosity Grade Read Across precision matrix testing for the method commenced in mid-January. It will take several months to complete this matrix, and this work will help both parties better understand the test and develop limits that all parties can agree to.

Industry representatives will be meeting in mid-February to more formally discuss these latest proposals, and there is time to finalize the specification and still meet the desired ILSAC timing. Sources said that if a draft GF-6 specification can be finalized by June, second quarter of 2020 first allowable use is a real possibility.

The BOI/VGRA task group will need to complete rules that impact commercial deployment. Right now the mandatory waiting period is set for 12 months, but that is contingent on ensuring that test capacity is adequate and that all marketers big or small can launch GF-6 in a reasonable time frame. Significant issues still need to be worked out by this task force to ensure read-accross for the Sequence IIIH test and that the number of tests required can be met by current IIIH test capacity.

All eyes will be closely watching the Sequence IVB matrix to be sure that the test is in control and can consistently measure wear performance in an operationally valid test.