Most modern automobile engines run with either 5W-20 or 5W-30 weight motor oil lubricating their internals. While these two oil viscosities have been shown to adequately protect an engine's moving parts, a lower-weight lubricant (0W-10, for example) could theoretically boost a vehicle's fuel economy rating. Therefore, engineers at Shell recently set out to formulate an ultra-low viscosity synthetic motor oil to show that this type of improved fuel economy isn't just theoretical. It's proven.

The collaboration between research teams at Shell and Gordon Murray Design led to the development of the fuel-saving 0W-10 synthetic motor oil. When tested in Gordon Murray's T.25 city car, Shell engineers discovered that the new engine oil increased fuel efficiency by 6.5 percent in city driving and 4.6 percent on the combined cycle.

Shell's findings don't imply that every vehicle would benefit from using this 0W-10 weight motor oil, and the company doesn't suggest that this concept lubricant would be approved for use in all modern autos, but it does show that an ultra-low viscosity oil can, when poured into the T.25 city car's sump, reduce fuel consumption. That's something, right?

[Source: Shell]
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Shell concept lubricant achieves 6.5% fuel economy benefit

Technical partnership with Gordon Murray Design looks beyond current industry specifications to push the boundaries in lubricant formulation.

A collaboration between research teams at Shell and Gordon Murray Design (GMD) has led to the development of an innovative concept engine lubricant capable of achieving a 6.5 per cent¹ improvement in fuel efficiency - a step change compared to the improvements of around 2.5 per cent achieved in typical fuel economy lubricant development programmes. Using GMD's new T.25 city car - a breakthrough in city vehicle design² - as the test bed, Shell engineers have been able to work beyond current industry specifications to formulate an ultra low viscosity 0W-10 motor oil, effectively tearing up the rule book in the search for even greater efficiency.

Changes in legislation and new emission standards are putting pressure on vehicle manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. While the development of increasingly fuel efficient engines is ongoing, and has made significant progress in recent years, lubrication is one area that can provide an extra boost to help meet those targets. A co-engineering approach between the Shell and GMD development teams used sophisticated mathematical modelling techniques to define the optimum lubricant for the T.25 engine design, helping to achieve the lowest possible engine friction.
Carl Stow, senior scientist with Shell lubricants

Carl Stow, senior scientist with Shell lubricants

Selda Gunsel, Vice President Lubricants and B2B Products Technology at Shell Lubricants, says "Blending low viscosity oil to improve fuel efficiency is actually relatively simple; the challenge comes when you look to balance it with engine protection and acceptable oil drain intervals. There are products on the market that have made great strides in achieving this balance, such as Shell Helix Ultra but they have to work within the parameters of current industry specifications. We believe that now is the time to start looking at lubricant technology that goes beyond current specifications to enhance the efficiency of the cars of tomorrow."

"Although in the concept stage, this represents a major advancement in lubricant technology; what we have learnt feeds in to the products we are developing for use in the near future. Of course, engine oil is just one part of the fuel efficiency story, but when we take into account the pressure and incentives for vehicle manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions the contribution from lubricants can become very significant. This is due to the fact that with less engine friction comes less fuel use and ultimately less CO2 is emitted," Selda adds.

We have challenged every aspect of car design to create the T.25 and the environmentally positive iStream manufacturing process. The lubricant is no exception. It is a vital engine component that has more potential than most for improving a vehicle's fuel economy and cutting its CO2 emissions. That is why we have been working closely with Shell to test their exciting new ultra-low-viscosity concept oil.

Professor Gordon Murray, Gordon Murray Design's CEO and Technical Director
T.25 car competing in the RAC Future Car Challenge

T.25 car competing in the RAC Future Car Challenge

Using the 0W-10 Shell concept motor oil, the T.25 achieved 96 mpg in the RAC Future Car Challenge, winning the award of the most economic small, passenger internal-combustion engine vehicle. This shows the great results that can be achieved when lightweight car design, efficient small engines and innovative lubricants are combined.

"As one of the world's largest transport fuel and lubricant providers, Shell is doing what we can to help customers use less fuel and emit less today. We are calling our strategic response to the challenge of sustainable transport 'smarter mobility'. Smarter mobility comprises a range of innovations in three key areas: smarter products, smarter use and smarter infrastructure. By focusing on delivering smarter fuels and lubricants for our customers and promoting more efficient use of resources, incremental improvements can be achieved which could be significant in terms of scale and give substantial benefits over time. Technology projects such as the Shell concept motor oil co-engineered with Gordon Murray Design are a tangible example of the results of our work to develop smart products for the ever more efficient cars of the future." Roger Moulding, Vice-President Global Key Accounts at Shell Lubricants.

¹The figure of 6.5 percent is derived from testing on an urban cycle (the urban cycle is designed to mimic the conditions of city driving). Combined cycle (the combined cycle is designed to mimic both urban and motorway driving) testing yielded a 4.6 percent benefit. The testing undertaken compares the concept lubricant to a 10W-30 oil which is a widely used viscosity in European markets.

²The T.25 represents a major breakthrough in automotive design. It is a city car designed to have world-leading efficiency and ultra-low emissions. The car is also optimised for performance, cost, safety, usability, recyclability and ease of assembly.


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