Increase in energy efficiency, better energy management along with lower carbon footprint are strongly influenced by reduced frictional losses, better thermal and wear management, robustness of components and optimisation of combustion components. This change has been possible due to focused research and innovation in lubricants and fuels. The range of these lubricants and fuels that have affected energy efficiency has grown considerably and helped OEMs and consumers in different markets and regions.
The thermal and hydraulic stability, viscosity index, corrosion resistance of lubricants and their ability to operate between extreme hot and cold temperatures has changed the playing field of mobility. Additives also have been developed to provide flexibility to modify pour point, anti-foaming properties, thermal range of operation, and anti-stick resistance. A variety of solid and liquid lubricants have been developed over the years to cater to the requirements of the industry. For instance, solid lubricants are used in hybrid powertrain package of electric motor with the transmission and clutch. This type of a powertrain generates large amount of heat, which in turn affects efficiency. Such lubricants are prudent to ensure heat dissipation for longevity, consistency and efficient functionality.
In addition to reducing friction and removal of wear particles, lubricants ensure effective thermal management. Silica-based lubricants are stable and used in a high temperature environment. The heat transfer rate and requirement are significantly high due to the multiple subsystems under the hood, inside the vehicle cabin, and in the vehicle. The multiple powertrain options, the vehicle platforms and markets have increased the bandwidth of operation of lubricants. Impregnation with nano-particles has further enhanced lubricant stability, operability and efficiency.
MAINSTAYS OF MOBILITY
Petrol and diesel have been the fuel mainstays of the mobility industry. In the initial days, the octane numbers were low and sulphur levels were high. The change in engine technologies to enhance fuel efficiency and meet emission norms catapulted the fuels’ evolution. Lately, the sulphur content is reduced to less than 5 ppm in diesel fuel, in an endeavour to bring down the emissions and ensure functionality of aftertreatment systems in vehicles. This low sulphur fuel is used to help OEMs meet Euro VI & VII norms in Europe and T2B5 norms in the US. The newer fuels have been influential in increased life of components and systems. Petrol with higher octane values help with system longevity and fuel efficiency in vehicles.
Biodiesels picked pace when the energy providers were looking out for additional sources of fuel to mitigate energy challenges, and OEMs wanted to provide a larger outreach to mobility. Globally, this fuel is used in passenger and commercial vehicles, and mainly in institutional fleets. There are several ways to generate or convert this fuel. The engine and its components using biodiesel need to be modified in order to reduce oxidation and improve life and reliability.
The ethanol-based E85 fuels became popular and again, were developed as another source of energy for the mobility industry. The fuel was mainly used in few regions of the world, but the development of these fuels generated the energy-food debate.
In effect, lubricants and fuels play a powerful role in mobility as direct influencers of fuel efficiency, end of life, emissions, reliability and robustness of components. They are the nerve centres of the circular mobility economy in delivering sustainable solutions.