High-tech Oils for High-tech Engines


Powertrain lubricants are facing significant challenges in Asia, and PSA Peugeot Citroen has published oil specifications to help protect its smaller, hotter new engines from the ravages of high-sulfur fuels that frequently contain methanol and manganese.

Sebastien Vautier, PSA Peugeot Citroens technology manager for automotive lubricants, offered a European automakers perspective on powertrain lubricants in Asia at the ICIS Asian Base Oils & Lubricants Conference in Singapore earlier this summer.

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PSA sold nearly 3 million vehicles in 2012, Vautier said, with 59 percent of those sales in Europe and 16 percent in Asia. The company is first in vehicle sales in France, second in the European Union, and eighth worldwide. PSA has great ambitions in Asia, expecting sales to grow nearly fourfold from 2012 to 2020, he said. The company had 44 branded outlets in ASEAN member companies in 2011, and expects that to jump to 176 outlets by 2015.

PSA estimates that Chinas passenger car and light commercial vehicle market will grow from 15.7 million vehicles sold in 2012 to sales of 23.2 million in 2020, while sales in the rest of Asia will climb from 2012s 11.3 million to 14 million in 2020.

In China, said Vautier, PSAs primary auto manufacturing operations are conducted through two joint ventures: a 50-50 jv with Dong Feng, Chinas third largest domestic automaker, called DPCA; and another 50-50 jv called CAPSA, with ChangAn, the countrys fourth largest automaker. PSA has established its China technical center in Shanghai to support increased production.

Focusing on drivetrain lubricants, Vautier noted that oil formulation has a challenge, to deal with many contradictions in a complex environment. Automakers must reduce emissions and improve fuel economy while their customers want reduced maintenance and a lower total cost of ownership.

As automakers globalize their engines, they are faced with new fuels, and with new customers with different driving styles and maintenance patterns. To meet engine durability targets, Vautier continued, new downsized engines feature small sumps, hot engines and complex lubricating systems. Meeting emissions and fuel economy targets in the face of increasing crude and fuel prices and economic recession, said Vautier, will require breakthrough innovations.

But PSA predicts that the internal combustion engine will continue to dominate in the coming decade. In 2020, said Vautier, the world automotive market will still be 80 percent internal combustion, with hybrid electric engines making up 17 percent and electric vehicles accounting for just 3 percent.

Powertrain lubricants face three big challenges in Asia, Vautier said. First is local fuels that frequently contain sulfur, methanol and octane boosters with manganese. Those compounds have a great impact on oil resistance to oxidation, especially on its resistance to coking, so engine formulations must be adapted to resist Asian fuels. And drain intervals must be shorter with high sulfur fuels.

The second challenge is the introduction of the latest engine technologies throughout Asia. Asia cannot be considered only as an emerging market, Vautier warned. The latest engine technologies will require the latest engine oil technologies as well.

Finally, said Vautier, is the challenge of poor oil quality in the aftermarket. This is an issue in Asia which leads to many engine failures, he said. In response, PSA has developed standards for Asia, for a semi-synthetic 10W-40, a synthetic 5W-40, a synthetic anti-pollution 5W-30 and a synthetic anti-pollution 0W-30. An oil approved by PSA Peugeot Citroen ensures engine durability and low consumption, Vautier asserted.

Oil is a noble and very technical product, Vautier concluded. Its quality is to be improved in Asia … [and] PSA specifications can help on that.

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