EVs Pose Opportunities for Grease


AMSTERDAM – Battery-powered vehicles have fewer grease applications than internal combustion engine vehicles, but EV components and changing driving habits could still create opportunities for grease manufacturers, an official with a German market research firm told a conference here last week.

Silke Brand-Kirsch, executive partner of German marketing research and consultancy company Schlegel und Partner, told the ICIS & ELGI Industrial Lubricants Conference on June 19 that EVs still represent opportunities for grease manufacturers. Conventional vehicles have more than 100 grease applications, but a number of those are likely to disappear in BEVs, such as those related to the fuel system, exhaust system, engine and drivetrain. That change could be mitigated by the emergence of new applications – for example, in electric motor bearings.

While these are often of the double-shielded or double-sealed kind, meaning a so-called lubricated-for-life design, other components need re-greasing depending on operating conditions. The car-sharing trend then comes into play, Brand-Kirsch pointed out, especially as shared vehicles will likely purely on batteries in the future.

The new generation or people living in highly urbanized areas may not want to own a car in the future, and this of course completely changes the usage pattern of a car, she said. An average vehicle is often only used for one or two hours per day on average. It is safe to assume that a vehicle in a car-sharing fleet will be used more frequently, she said, thus leading to new and presumably more stringent servicing demands, including re-greasing.

Brand-Kirsch touched upon the topic of lithium, and whether or not grease manufacturers stand to suffer from the surging demand for lithium from battery cell manufacturers for BEVs, which require up to 80 kilograms of lithium. We see demand catching up with supply by 2024, she told the conference. Seventy-five percent of todays greases use lithium-based thickeners, and 8 percent of lithium produced in the world today is used for grease. This is expected to change dramatically, as the share will likely fall to 2 percent in the future.

More generally, the impact of E-mobility on the lubricants industry might not be as immediate nor as far-reaching as previously assumed.

After interviewing original equipment manufacturers, conducting surveys and analyzing company data, Schlegel und Partner estimated that 70 percent of new passenger cars sold in 2030 would still have internal combustion engines.

The peak of ICE vehicle production is not expected until 2024, after which time the share of BEVs is projected to grow to 15 percent in 2030. By that time, though, the vast majority of the global fleet of cars – 92 percent – is still expected to consist of ICE vehicles.

While Brand-Kirsch admits that automotive lubricant demand will not grow fast on an annual basis, Schlegel und Partner nonetheless projects it will increase 15 percent from some 20 million metric tons today to 23 million metric tons by 2030.