Lubricants Companies Prepare for the Future of Trucking
If you watch movies like Blade runner and Back to the future part II, taking place in 2019 and 2015 respectively, you know the future has come and gone. Congratulations, we have succeeded.
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Ridley Scott and Robert Zemeckis might be great directors, but seeing as there’s no sign of neon-draped flying cars on the horizon, they might not be the best to trust with predictions about how the automotive landscape will look for years to come. the future.
Today, we are on the brink of an alternative fuels revolution, with electrification and hydrogen fuel cells knocking on the doors of fleets around the world. This means that companies like those in the lubrication industry have the opportunity to sit in the director’s chair to predict what the future of the industry will look like – but unlike Hollywood, these predictions are made by automotive experts and backed by solid science.
Research from Shell’s recent report on decarbonizing the road freight sector with Deloitte, titled “Decarbonizing Road Freight: Getting Started”, indicates that the advancement of zero emission trucks is happening rapidly. Selda Gunsel, vice president of global business technology at Shell, says for the lubrication industry to keep pace, now is the time to prepare and act.
“It’s not about 20 or 30 years old [from now], this is the decade to come. The roadmap of 22 decarbonization solutions identified by world leaders in the sector [in our report] was based on a ten-year period up to 2030, ”Gunsel says. “Many senior executives from the North American road freight industry have been involved in this research and it is clear that road freight is quickly reaching a tipping point to decarbonize. And decarbonization will happen faster than many think. In fact, many players in the sector no longer see road freight as a difficult sector to reduce.
“What is clear is that we already have the two zero emission technologies needed to decarbonize commercial road vehicles: the electric battery and the hydrogen fuel cell. And there is a growing alignment within the industry that the truck’s duty cycle will play a role in accelerating change, with hydrogen for heavy-duty, long-range and battery-electric use coming to the fore. for light trade and medium to close range. duty, ”she adds.
For Shell, Gunsel said part of that alignment meant expanding the company’s range of electronic fluids to commercial vehicles, which Shell did in October 2020.
This range of specialized fluids has been developed to meet the specific needs of battery-powered and hydrogen-powered electric trucks. Truck OEMs and their customers must use specialist fluids in zero emission trucks because truck transmissions put different pressures on fluids and greases.
“The choice of fluids for battery electric vehicles [BEV] or fuel cell electric vehicles [FCEV] commercial vehicles are extremely important. They need to perform at optimum levels throughout the life of a vehicle, as they are filled at the factory and in a sealed environment, ”Gunsel explains. “For our range of Shell e-fluids, we used our Shell gas in liquid [GTL] base oil technology because its low viscosity properties allow greater efficiency of the vehicle’s powertrain. Our lubricant research in the development of these advanced fluid solutions has focused on the specific challenges of electrical transmission of temperature control, oxidation, copper erosion and thermal conductivity.
Of course, even in a scenario where electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks become the most common vehicles on the road ten years from now, diesel engines aren’t going away anytime soon. There will always be a simultaneous need to lubricate the next generation of these engines.
“Vehicles stay on the road for a long time. I mean, there are trucks on the road today that were designed and built in the late 90s, ”says Shawn Whitacre, senior engineer at Chevron. “We have therefore already launched efforts to identify the requirements for engines that will be built to meet the standards proposed here in the United States and Europe which require an even greater improvement in fuel efficiency, lower pollutant emissions. as well as longer life requirements. on the emission control system. These will take place between 2024 and 2027 only for more traditional platforms.
Chevron is already working in partnership with its suppliers and engine builders to assess the needs of fleets using a mix of energies to power their trucks. Whitacre says the company’s goal is to develop oils that have “very clear, robust, and well-defined specifications that allow end users to identify the correct fluid and match it to the powertrain they are using in. their fleet.
Jeff Torkelson, senior technical director of commercial and industrial lubricants at Valvoline, says he’s excited about the industry’s shift to alternative fuel trucks.
“This is an opportunity for the lubricants industry to prepare and help our customers move away from traditional lubricants for new fluids that will support these alternative technologies,” he says. “Lubrication companies can prepare by being attentive to changing customer needs, keeping the innovation pipeline open, and continually seeking opportunities to support new alternative fuel technologies.”
Since today’s trucks will likely have many years to go on the road, lubricant manufacturers are also focusing on developing formulations that can simultaneously meet the needs of different types of engines. Petro-Canada Lubricants has its Duron Geo line of heavy-duty engine oils and Valvoline recently launched its Premium Blue One Solution Gen2, both designed to meet the needs of gasoline, diesel and gasoline engines. DA Lubricant Co. also offers its DA Reliant X-92 lubricant solution, also formulated to meet the needs of natural gas, diesel and gasoline engines.