Green motor oil? ExxonMobil scientists deliver an unexpected solution

Science & technology

Over the last few years, automotive manufacturers across Europe have been dealing with a vexing problem: How would they comply with stricter environmental mandates on emission reductions without sacrificing vehicle performance?

Seizing the opportunity

A team of Mobil 1 lubricant experts at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering saw an opportunity to help: If they were able to achieve significant carbon dioxide emission reductions through a change in lubricant, it could represent a much lower cost alternative than introducing an expensive redesign of engine systems.

“It was clear that there was a need for a low-viscosity oil that provided engine protection like higher-viscosity formulations. At that time, the reality was that no one had been able to deliver such a combination. Our team saw that as a potential opportunity — devising a new oil formulation to fulfill an unmet need,” explained Kevin Kelly, Ph.D., passenger vehicle lubricants technology program leader, who directed a team of ExxonMobil chemists, engineers and technical advisors assembled to develop the first prototype low-viscosity candidate.

Overcoming skepticism

From initial meetings with select European automotive manufacturers, Kelly recalled, “Reactions to our proposition were guarded and skeptical as the car manufacturers feared jeopardizing the engine durability and performance benefits they had come to rely on from high-viscosity oil formulations.”

Undaunted, the project team set out to develop a new Mobil 1 formulation that offered the performance benefits of high-viscosity motor oils with the fuel efficiency gains of low-viscosity formulas. Along with their collective chemistry expertise, team members were confident that ExxonMobil’s unique approach of component-based formulating would pay off.

“The key to getting the most out of a lubricant is maximizing the contribution of each component in the formulation,” said Doug Deckman, Ph.D., Mobil 1 lead researcher. “With our process of selecting and evaluating individual components and additives, we were very confident that we could create a low-viscosity formulation to deliver step-out fuel economy performance without sacrificing performance elsewhere in the engine.”

Green Mobil 1

The team’s efforts resulted in Mobil 1 ESP x2 0W-20, a motor oil that is actually green in color, differentiating it from other Mobil 1 formulations. During development, they documented that the innovative, low-viscosity synthetic motor oil could help improve fuel efficiency — up to 4 percent — without sacrificing performance and durability of gasoline- and diesel-powered engines.

Together with Products Technology Original Equipment Manufacturer advisors, the team presented the new oil’s performance data to key European automotive manufacturers and grabbed their attention and interest. The test data succeeded in changing their perspective of viewing engine oil as a commodity, to considering it as an essential element of modern engine design, which can contribute to their carbon dioxide emission-reduction efforts.

Testing leads to approval

Consequently, the team quickly created and shipped prototypes of the new Mobil 1 formulation for larger-scale testing and evaluation by a range of automotive manufacturers. Their test results indicated that the innovative oil represented a truly viable solution to their challenge.

Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche and Volkswagen Group have all approved the new Mobil 1 formulation that is now commercially available. Karl Dums, director of advanced engineering powertrain and powertrain strategy at Porsche, said, “The low-viscosity formulation of Mobil 1 ESP x2 0W-20 offers the compelling performance benefits demanded by our premium vehicles, as well as improved fuel efficiency for our drivers.”

Tags:   efficiencyGreen Mobil 1lubricantsMobil 1motor oil
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