EVs Forecast to Cut Engine Oil Demand

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EVs Forecast to Cut Engine Oil Demand
A close-up view of an electric vehicle's charging socket. © Varavin88

With numbers still ramping up rapidly from such a small base, forecasting global electric vehicle sales far into the future is a dodgy undertaking, but a consulting firm estimates that they will comprise 35% of the total passenger vehicle fleets in 15 large or developed nations by 2040, and that annual passenger car motor oil demand in those markets will decline by approximately 700,000 metric tons over the same period.

As a result, development of internal combustion engine technology has stalled along with the motor oil development process, led by such industry associations as Union of the European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) and International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC), a representative of the Kline and Co. consultancy told an online industry conference last month.

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Speaking Oct. 20 during RPI’s International Lubricants Week, Sharbel Luzuriaga, a project manager in Kline’s energy practice, explained the firm’s forecast for EV penetration in 15 countries: Norway, Japan, France, South Korea, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Germany, the United States, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, India, Brazil and Russia. EV numbers affect engine oil demand because vehicles powered solely by battery or fuel cell do not have an internal combustion engine and therefore do not use crankcase oils.

Kline’s forecast considered passenger car motor oil demand in its select countries under four scenarios: no EVs by 2040; the combined number of passenger cars powered only by battery, plug-in hybrids and hybrids remaining at 2020 levels; EVs growing to constitute 35% of the projected passenger car populations in those countries – or 430 million out of 1.2 billion units; and an unspecified higher level of EV penetration.

“Under the most likely scenario, EV technology is expected to hold 35% of the total passenger vehicle population by 2040,” Luzuriaga said. “The developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia are estimated to lead the EV transition revolution.”

That level of EV penetration in Kline’s select nations would cause cumulative annual passenger car motor oil demand decline of 0.2%, or to around 4.1 million tons per year in 2040, the firm forecasts.

EVs are expected to impact the quality of motor oils as well as the quantity. “The qualitative impact accelerates quality shifts toward ultra-low synthetic viscosity grades and premium lubricant products,” said Luzuriaga, who is based in Kline’s Prague office. The company is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey. “Meanwhile, the market is witnessing the emergence of EV fluids, offsetting the loss on the PCMO market.”

Kline labeled as Archetype 1 a scenario in which such countries as Norway, Japan, France and South Korea achieve 50% penetration of EVs very fast.  In Archetype 2, Kline says, countries like the UK, China, Canada, Germany, the United States and Australia are predicted to reach 25% to 50% of EV penetration at a fast to moderate speed. Archetype 3 assumes moderate to slow penetration of less than 25% of the total vehicle fleet in such countries as Indonesia, India, Mexico, Brazil and Russia.

Kline also said that the increasing emphasis on sustainability is a significant factor in EV adoption.

“Between 2020 and 2021, sustainability has become a megatrend,” Luzuriaga said. “We are seeing a rush of corporations and governments declaring their intention to become carbon neutral by a given date, anywhere from 20 to 40 years into the future. The environment, social and governance standards will have a profound impact on the operational and business practices of enterprises worldwide.”

Competing to gain prominence are several sustainable technologies, including electrification, hydrogen and ammonia fuels, e-fuels and carbon capture, usage and storage. Proponents often trumpet the positives and gloss over the drawbacks, so the landscape is complex and evolving.

“There is no one best route to net-zero and the context is very important,” Luzuriaga said. “The route and pace of decarbonization will be influenced by the government regulations, the energy, automotive, and other industrial company commitments to create a new ecosystem as well as the corporate and retail consumer choice.” For more coverage of electric vehicles and their impact on lubricants, subscribe to Lubes’n’Greases’ Electric Vehicles InSite.