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In 2005, 16.9 million light cars and trucks were sold in the United States, and another 20.4 million were sold in the European Union. No wonder automakers on both sides of the Atlantic hold strong opinions about how best to lubricate their vehicles. Yet their approach to satisfying this need varies widely.

Recently, LubesnGreases met and interviewed the principal technical groups representing vehicle manufacturers in the development of engine oil standards on both continents.

Last month, we reported on the views of ILSAC, the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee, active in North America.

This month, the Fuels and Lubricants Working Group of ACEA, the European association of automobile manufacturers, takes center stage.

Since 1996, Europes automotive lubricant specifications have come from a single committee: the ACEA Fuels & Lubricants Working Group. Within this group, often a single representative from an OEM company will have responsibility for both fuels and lubricants -but when it comes to lubricants, the main focus is sharply on engine oils. (Other lubricants, like automatic transmission fluid, are handled by individual companies.)

The Working Group, which is part of ACEAs Emissions and Fuels function, is further divided into two task groups, light duty and heavy duty. They hammer out draft specifications in periodic meetings of the F&LWorking Group, usually held at ACEA headquarters in Brussels.

Open only to ACEAs 13 member companies, this group has sole responsibility and final say on Europes continent-wide lubricant specifications. Known as ACEA Oil Sequences, these specs define three separate sets of oils: The A/B class of service fill oils for gasoline and light-diesel engines; the C class of catalyst-compatible oils for light-duty engines; and the E class oils for heavy-duty diesels. (See chart, left.) The next upgrade to these Sequences is expected in 2008.

LubesnGreases met with the F&L Working Group in Brussels on Sept. 12, and presented questions to its members.

LnG:What are the major lubricant issues facing European vehicle manufacturers in the next five years?

Sven-Oliver Kossmehl (Volkswagen), leader of the light-duty subgroup: Low SAPS [the additives sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulfur] is an ongoing issue. Most European OEMs already require low-SAPS engine oils. When the ash content is reduced we must make sure that antiwear properties remain at least on the same level. More probably they must be increased, especially with new engines with very high wear requirements.

In addition, the effects of sulfur and phosphorus on catalysts are critical. Another related problem is the issue of biofuels, which is more or less a worldwide issue. These fuels can increase the contamination of engine oil and we have to find measures to keep the consequences under control.

Development of new tests is important. For example, the M-111 sludge test is, unfortunately, quite old and we must replace it in three to four years to be available for the European specifications in 2010. A new antiwear test is also essential and already under development.

Evaporative loss is an issue, again connected with low SAPS oils, and their impact on after treatment systems. We are looking here at the use of more Group III base oils for the new oils. Finally,ofcourse, fuel economy is a big issue which we will always look at. It is probable that we increase these requirements in the next generation of Oil Sequences in 2008 and further in the future.

Bengt Otterholm (Volvo), leader of the heavy-duty subgroup: Heavy-duty issues are pretty much the same as light-duty issues. The major challenge we see is how to solve the conflicting arguments we face from aftertreatment components which require reductions in some of the additives in the oils -sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulfur,which we all know as SAPS -and how to protect the engines from wear,especially with the introduction of Exhaust Gas Recirculation. Thats a challenge already facing the U.S. and may be a factor here in Europe, too.

Another challenge is the shift in focus from emissions to carbon dioxide and energy conserving, which means fuel economy. When we factor that into the equation the challenge will be higher.

LnG:Is there a movement toward convergence, divergence or asteady state of specifications worldwide?

Anders Roj (Volvo), F&L Working Group Pilot: There are differences in engine technology around the world,and that will make it difficult for engine oil specifications to converge. In that area, we are considering an inquiry from API on the incorporation of our ACEA light-duty engine oil specifications into U.S. specifications. I can point out that ACEA Oil Sequences are an open code for anyone to use. We want our Oil Sequences to have as much coverage around the world as possible. Still there may be some legal aspects to consider.

Otterholm: Obviously, ACEA owns the Oil Sequence document but we dont own the tests. They [API] can include CEC tests, or proprietary tests of separate OEMs, or ASTM and even DIN tests. Anyone can use these tests and put them together in any way they want, or in exactly the same way as we have done and proceed to call them the same terminology as we do. On the other hand, ACEA doesnt even have to be mentioned.

LnG:ACEA Oil Sequences are used around the world. How much influence do other areas, other markets, have in your discussions?

Hubert Schnuepke (DaimlerChrysler): Our vehicles go to all parts of the world and the technology is the same elsewhere as here. We dont have different levels of technology, its always the latest technology anywhere our vehicles are sold. And the lubricant needs follow this technology. However, there are less advanced emissions requirements outside of the U.S. and Europe, and our Oil Sequences allow different quality levels, and that is important worldwide.

Otterholm: We dont look at different market aspects so much. The world is technology driven. Engines sold here are sold everywhere. Speaking for my company, we dont have production capacity to keep producing older technology and so new technology is phased in and old technology is phased out.

With respect to emission standards, other markets besides the U.S.,Japan and Europe are about one emission standard behind us, at Euro 3. We dont have production capacity for Euro 1 or Euro 2 technology.Obviously oil requirements follow that technology. Our technology very quickly spreads and has a big influence on the rest of the world.

LnG:Does the focus on emissions require you to make trade-offs, for example, between wear control and fuel economy?

Otterholm: Of course, engines must meet emissions requirements, thats a qualifier. But if we have to do a trade-off, wear control and engine durability is the highest priority.

Kossmehl: If there is a trade-off that any member of the group sees as a risk, it will never be accepted.

LnG:With 13 original equipment manufacturers involved in setting specifications, do you end up with specifications that are lowest common denominator?

Otterholm: No, more often it is the highest common denominator.

Roj: We think its very important that we, European vehicle manufacturers, have control of the specifications.

Reinhard Buetehorn (GM Powertrains) The OEMs are looking for performance and are aware of the engines and can ask for certain things which an oil company might find harder to understand.

Otterholm: Only European vehicle manufacturers set specifications. Oil and chemical additive companies dont have a vote in the specifications. However, we have an ongoing informal dialogue with the oil and chemical additive companies. We inform them of what our intentions are and welcome their comment with facts; for example, that if you want testing at this level it may have the following consequences. We take this information into this room and judge whether to accept it or not. If we think its just blowing smoke, we keep our original proposal. …Its not really like the process in the U.S.,where there is a formal voting process. Here we dont vote, we come to an agreement, a consensus. I cant remember one vote that weve taken.

Kossmehl: We decide specifications in this room. But we have links to all of the associations which represent lubricant manufacturers and providers. We take their comments seriously.

LnG:How are ACEA Oil Sequences used by European OEMs?

Kossmehl: Oil Sequences are seen as an entrance-level specification. They are minimum requirements and that is stated in the documents. Individual OEMs add different requirements to the oils to meet their technological requirements. Most vehicle owners manuals refer to separate company specifications as the primary oil recommendation, with ACEA specifications as a secondary recommendation. Sometimes ACEA Oil Sequence recommendations are not included in the owners manuals at all, only company specifications; in some cases it is the other way around. Individual companies tailor their specifications as necessary,for their own technology. Its different in the U.S., I think, where all owners manuals recommend commonly developed specifications and usually dont reference company specifications.

David Kieken (Renault): The [ACEA] specifications have the potential for long drain intervals. Companies have different philosophies and additional requirements for the longest drains.

LnG: What is your relationship with ILSAC? Why havent you joined?

Roj: Sometimes we discuss it. The main issue is the decision process. We want to maintain our own processes and partners. Our Oil Sequences are the result of our individual companies working together. Still, some of our member companies are also members of ILSAC and to that extent we are associated with ILSAC.

Otterholm: We dont want to formally join ILSAC because of the process they use. It would mean that we would have to give up some of the autonomy we have and thats a stumbling block.

LnG: In the United States, the American Petroleum Institute licenses engine oil and monitors marketplace oil through its Aftermarket Audit Program. Is there any European licensing program or marketplace oil monitoring program? Are you satisfied with the quality of oil in Europe?

Otterholm: Our marketplace check of oils is informal by individual companies. For example, when anyone on our staff goes into a retailer he looks at the oil containers on display to see if our specification is included. If it is and the oil is not certified by us, we follow up.

Roj: We are concerned that still some older oils with the CCMC label [CCMC is an earlier name of ACEA] are in the market. These oils, mostly used in older cars and busses are very low cost but do in no way fulfill the requirements of modern engine technology.

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