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 percent improvement in fuel efficiency – a step change compared to the improvements of around 2.5 percent achieved in typical fuel economy lubricant development programs. Using GMD’s new T.25 city car – a breakthrough in city vehicle design – 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 modeling techniques to define the optimum lubricant for the T.25 engine design, helping to achieve the lowest possible engine friction.

Selda Gunsel, vice president of 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.

Professor Gordon Murray, CEO and technical director at Gordon Murray Design, says: “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.”

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 of global key accounts at Shell Lubricants.