Toyota Urges Lighter Oils for Asia


BANGKOK – Eking out fuel savings wherever it can, Toyota Motor Corp. is urging customers throughout Asia to use engine oils no heavier than 10W-30, an official with the company said during a base oil conference here last month.

The pitch drew skepticism from some lubricant industry observers, who speculated that drivers in some countries will be reluctant to stop using high-viscosity oils.

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In a Sept. 15 presentation to F&L Asias Asia-Pacific Base Oil Conference, Toyotas Fumio Ueda said that one of the biggest priorities for the auto industry is to develop environmentally sustainable vehicles – cars, trucks and motorcycles that use less fuel and generate less pollution. A senior staff engineer with Toyotas Fuel and Lubricant Department, Ueda cited some of the fronts on which automakers are pursuing that goal: tapping alternative fuels, such as electricity or hydrogen; developing more efficient transmissions; and using lighter materials to reduce vehicle weight.

Lubricants are being asked to contribute to the cause, too, with automakers pushing engine oils that have lower viscosity, and therefore reduce friction in engines. Ueda, who is also chairman of the Engine Oil Subcommittee of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association, noted that Toyota has begun recommending 0W-20 oils in Japan. The company is taking a more modest step of prescribing 10W-30 oils in other parts of Asia, where 20W-40 and 20W-50 grades prevail.

Low-viscosity lubricants are one of the key technologies to get good fuel economy, Ueda said. Toyota would like to introduce 0W-20 oils [throughout Asia]. As a first step, though, 10W-30 is acceptable for all sides – customers, oil producers, car manufacturers. I think we will go further once everyone recognizes that lower-viscosity oils are not a problem.

Ueda cited estimates that Asia would reduce fuel consumption by 2 million kiloliters (520 million gallons) per year if all drivers made the switch.

Some who heard his presentation expressed doubt that Toyotas wish will be fulfilled anytime soon, contending that large parts of the region remain wedded to heavier oils.

In Indonesia, motorists use mostly 20W-50 oils, said Andria Nusa, lubricant product development manager for PT Pertamina, Indonesias national oil company. Only a few use 10W-40, and it is still difficult to find 10W-30.

It is not easy for the motorist to change to a lighter oil if there is no recommendation from the manufacturer and service stations, he continued, adding that most of these still recommend 20W-50. In their opinions, lighter oils will be noisier and cause hotter temperatures and higher oil consumption.

Ueda said Toyota is encouraging the switch to lighter oils by recommending them in owner manuals and in bulletins to service stations. Some conference attendees said it will take a bigger effort to bring about much change.

I agree that it makes sense, especially in light of whats happened with fuel prices, said Harland Bulow, lead consultant for base oils with Tri-Zen International, a consulting firm based in Singapore. But you have to overcome two factors: price, since the lighter-grade oils tend to cost less; and the simple fact that people are used to using heavier oils.

Youre not going to overcome those obstacles without a pretty aggressive education campaign, he told Lube Report.To me, the best place to do that is in the schools, so you can reach young drivers.

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