India Two-Wheeler Lube Outlook Called Positive


MUMBAI, India – Indias demand for two-wheeler lubricants should remain strong in coming years even as electric models begin to penetrate the market, a motorcycle manufacturer representative told a recent industry conference, thanks to the enormous number of units powered by internal combustion engine.

ICE two-wheelers are expected to continue to dominate in India until 2030 and beyond, while electric models will only have marginal impact on the segment until 2025. Hence, the outlook is positive for two-wheeler lubricants over the next six years, said Sandur Ajith Kumar, a consultant in the research and development division of TVS Motor Co., Indias third-largest two-wheeler manufacturer.

It is good news to cheer for all in the lubricant industry because they still have to supply oil for this market, he said at the ICIS Indian Base Oils & Lubricants Conference here last month.

The number of motorcycles, mopeds and powered scooters – which together account for nearly 80 percent of Indias vehicle population – is projected to reach around 220 million units in 2020, up from over 140 million units in 2015, Kumar said. The number could grow further to roughly 300 million units by 2025, he added. Motorcycles account for the largest share of the two-wheeler segment, followed by scooters and mopeds.

Two-wheeler sales in India, the worlds largest market, rose 12.8 percent year-on-year to 21.6 million units in 2018, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. Within the two-wheeler segment, sales of motorcycles grew by 15.6 percent, while sales of scooters and mopeds increased 8.8 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

Kumar predicted Indias two-wheeler sales will grow at a compound annual rate of 11.9 percent to over 50 million units by 2026.

Approximately three-fourths of two-wheelers in India are used for transportation, while others are used for business and recreational activities. Business purposes include delivery of food and other items, and mail and courier services, while recreational activity includes motorcycle sports, expeditions, cruises, rallies and racing events.

Scooters are gaining popularity among women and families, Kumar said, because they are light and easy to maintain, affordable and get better mileage because of their small engines. It is a good fit for urban driving conditions, he stated.

Kumar believes scooters will transition to electric motors faster than motorcycles because scooters are mainly used for short commutes, and recharging the batteries will be easy and economical. He predicted significant growth in electric scooters will occur by 2025, but added that they will not overtake ICE models.

Engine lubricants used in two-wheelers in Asia and Southeast Asia are shifting from SAE 20W-40 products towards SAE 10W-30 and SAE 10W-40, thanks to recommendations from OEMs.

Kumar said drain interval recommendations for motorcycles currently range from 3,000 kilometers to 6,000 km. OEMs would like to stretch them to 9,000 km but find it difficult to do so because of the frequency of stop-and-start cycles on Indias congested roads.

He said four-stroke motorcycles have different lubrication needs than cars because their engine structures are different and they run under more severe conditions. There are a lot of divergent and contradictory requirements for the oil for the motorcycles, and therefore a balanced formulation approach is essential to meet all performance requirements, Kumar said.

Motorcycle oils should meet API SL and JASO MA2 specifications, he stated. Kumar noted the current trends in motorcycle oil formulation shows a shift towards semi-synthetic and fully synthetic oils that meet higher performance requirements. This means increased use of API Group II and Group III base oils instead of Group I oils, he said.

For scooters, Kumar said motorcycle oils were used until recently, but now exclusive oils for scooters have become popular amongst OEMs and oil marketing companies. JASO MB SAE 10W-30 has seen an increase, indicating the markets focus on dedicated scooter oil, he said.

Kumar cautioned that using scooter oil in a motorcycle will damage the engine, and the reliability and durability will be reduced by more than 50 percent.

When India jumps from Bharat Stage IV to BS VI emissions regulations next year, motorcycle manufacturers will need to switch from carburetor to port-fuel injection designs, Kumar said, and this will require higher levels of piston cleanliness performance as well as improved oxidation and thermal stability in the formulation. Formulators will also need to reduce levels of phosphorus, sulfur and sulphated ash, just as passenger car oil formulations did.

New, enhanced oil performance technology will be essential to deliver the right oils for next generation motorcycle applications, Kumar said.

India two-wheelers

Photo: Barrie Watts/Alamy

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