New Powertrains Bring Lube Challenges


LAS VEGAS – Emerging fuel efficient powertrain technologies such as turbocharged direct injection engines will increase the need for improvements in powertrain lubricants, Daniel Kapp, Fords director of powertrain research and advanced engineering, told the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers annual meeting.

Direct injection, used by Fords EcoBoost engine for more precise control, delivers a fine mist of fuel directly into each cylinder. The dual turbochargers on Fords initial EcoBoost offering, a 3.5 liter V-6, provide faster throttle response for power on demand, and help eliminate turbo lag, while providing the fuel efficiency of a smaller engine.

Constant improvements in powertrain lubricants can help address higher load operation, increased ethanol usage and the need for reduced friction losses, Kapp said during his keynote address May 17. Lubricants can continue to play a very integral role, but maybe some of the challenges are a little bit different, he remarked. If we just look at EcoBoosting, were certainly seeing higher operating temperatures and much higher specific loads. So imagine now very small engines operating at very high combustion temperatures. Ford will launch other EcoBoost engine versions this year, according to Kapp.

In the near-term and mid-term, Ford will broaden its portfolio application of EcoBoost and hybrid technologies, he observed. In the mid-term, Kapp added, Ford wants to make EcoBoost available in nearly all vehicles. Ford is the leading domestic producer of full hybrid vehicles, Kapp noted, and the carmaker wants to increase the use of hybrids as a percentage of gas engines.

Currently, twin-turbocharged direct injection EcoBoost engines deliver V8 power with V6 fuel efficiency. The EcoBoost engine can use standard octane fuels, including E85 ethanol and diesel. Engine oil formulations will need to address issues related to expanded usage of ethanol blends, including high fuel dilutions impact on component wear due to reduced viscosity and increased corrosion, Kapp said.

He noted that the fuel dilution also affects hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with respect to two factors: reduced operating temperatures which may not allow accumulated ethanol to boil-off, and increased engine stop-start frequency and fast engine speed ramp-up.

Viscosity consistency over a wider temperature range will also be an issue. Because of the higher specific loads, and all the strain on the oil system if you will, we may be looking forward to a 0W-30 as more effective than a 5W-20, he explained. Those are some of the things were working through.

Continued research on next generation friction reduction ideas is also needed, Kapp observed, citing examples such as piston and rings coatings and bore wall finishes, new low-viscosity gear oils to improve driveline efficiency, and bearings for friction and durability. All these very small improvements that can come from what you do will absolutely have a role, Kapp told the STLE audience. Lubricants will also need to tackle extended oil drain intervals, he noted, pointing out that Ford will adopt 10,000 mile intervals for the 2011 model year.

Ford in recent years saw the importance of fuel economy increasing, he pointed out, and in the 2007 time frame ramped up its focus on that. We made this commitment to be part of the solution, Kapp recalled. We also had customer data that said that at least to North American customers, the image of Ford around fuel efficiency was not particularly good, and the prioritization [among customers] for fuel economy was much, much higher than it had been.

Ford committed to improving the fuel efficiency of its fleet in North America by 30 percent by 2015. Were proud to say were actually trending ahead of that curve, he continued. As were running these models, what kept really surfacing to the top as something that would really move the needle in terms of fuel efficiency at a relatively affordable cost – something we could roll out quickly and in high volume, which is absolutely key to getting on that CO2 glide path – was this EcoBoost strategy.

As the mileage targets get more intense, the degree of technology to achieve them gets more intense, Kapp remarked. So what we evolved here then is what we call the right technology for the right time, he added. It is always underpinned with this notion that it will be affordable and therefore allow high volume solutions to help leverage the fleet.

In the long term, its less clear what directions the automotive powertrain market will go, he stated. In that contest youre seeing different energy-based solutions, Kapp pointed out. Its obviously not as clear there, but the percentage of internal combustion engines will be dependent on contributions from the fuel side. Well continue to see obviously much more volume and expansion of hybrid technology. The technology path were on for conventional engines is also very compatible over the long term with renewable fuels and with hybridization.

Downsizing and boosting clearly is a trend, he asserted, and Ford believes it will continue to grow in the coming years. Ford does not claim to be the first, he emphasized. Where were different is in the application of it – its more of a downsizing fuel efficiency strategic role, Kapp pointed out. EcoBoost engines do provide significant fuel economy benefit onto themselves, usually in the 10 to 20 percent range at what we still consider good value and without compromise to vehicle performance.

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