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Oils and Modern Technology: How Innovation Impacts Vehicle Performance

In today’s age, oils are not just lubricants – they’re sophisticated products that are the result of millions of dollars of R&D. Their role is to enhance the performance of vehicles, with them becoming tailored to meet specific engine requirements, reducing wear, improving fuel efficiency, and ensuring engines run smoother for longer. Ultimately, it’s become one of the most important aspects of longevity.

Advancements in Motor Oil Technology

Motor oil production has undergone a few different advancements. This has mostly been driven by the need to meet the evolving demands of modern engines and environmental standards. With COP28 this week, it’s clear to see just how important the environment has become around the world, and it’s influencing car-related policymakers.

The introduction of synthetic blends was one of the first keys shifts, as it used to be from traditional mineral-based oils. These synthetic oils are engineered through complex chemical processes, offering superior performance characteristics such as enhanced lubrication, reduced volatility, and improved thermal stability.

Cars, and vans like the Ford Transit engine oil also use synthetic. The Transit, a staple on British roads, demands high-quality engine oils to maintain its reputation that is so important in the commercial word – such as being the daily driver of couriers. These vans are known to last upwards of half a million miles quite comfortably.

For diesel engines, oils with specifications like ACEA C3 are preferred, featuring 5W-30 viscosity. These oils ensure optimal performance under varying temperature conditions, from the cold of Scottish winters to the relative warmth of the South. For petrol engines, ACEA A3/B4 with 5W-40 viscosity is recommended, catering to the engine’s need for a slightly thicker oil to maintain lubrication at higher temperatures.

Nanotechnology and bespoke oil

Nanotechnology has emerged as a game-changer in oil production. By incorporating nanoparticles, these oils significantly reduce friction and wear, leading to extended engine life and improved fuel efficiency. This technological is particularly beneficial for high-performance engines and vehicles subjected to extreme conditions.

Another noteworthy development is that oils are becoming tailored for specific engine types, such as those designed for turbocharged or high-mileage engines. These oils contain specific additives that address the unique demands of these engines, like higher resistance to thermal breakdown and better sludge control.

Environmental considerations have steered the development of more eco-friendly oils, too. Low-viscosity oils, which flow more easily and reduce friction, contribute to lower emissions and improved fuel economy. These are the metrics that not just policymakers care about, but investors and customers. Manufacturers have also focused on developing oils compatible with biofuels and hybrid engine technologies.  More about oils on the website

Reliability and Maintenance in Modern Vehicles

Modern motor oils have changed vehicle maintenance, making things a lot more reliable and efficient. The introduction of advanced formulations has extended maintenance intervals during a time when car companies are accused of planned obsolescence.

Modern oils are engineered to combat engine wear and deposit formation. Inclusions like detergents, dispersants, and additives all help keep engines cleaner. They reduce the build-up of sludge by a significant amount, which is a common culprit of declining engine performance and breakdowns. This is ideal for engines running in congested urban environments; when you stop-start a lot, it leads to higher engine stress, and these oils have an even bigger impact.

There’s long been a movement towards condition monitoring technologies, such as oil life sensors.  Of course, these are important to how we maintain our cars, as they let us know when something isn’t working properly. Real-time data is something that is being used all around the car, and even in tyres now.

Future Outlook and Environmental Considerations

As the UK and its neighbours move towards more sustainable transport solutions, motor oils will continue to play a role. The shift towards self-driving electric vehicles and hybrids presents new challenges for oil manufacturers, but also some opportunities. EVs do not require engine oil in the traditional sense, though hybrid vehicles do, and there will still be lubricants needed in other areas of an EV.

Where the biggest change could come from is in the development of bio-based oils, as they edge closer towards true biodegradability. Smart oils, equipped with nanosensors for real-time data, will help in not just maintenance, but understanding cars more generally. The data gathered by oil companies could be sold on, or used for R&D, where the findings could help bring to light lesser-known stress points of a car, particularly when paired with other IoT.

Final Word

Oil, which is a timeless and rather filthy commodity, would be the last substance to imagine being integrated with smart technology and modern developments – but here we are. It’s clear that moving towards more data and cleaner materials is being incentivised from all angles; from customers and manufacturers to investors and policymakers. What is for certain is that, in a time where planned obsolescence and EV’s with short lifespans pose a threat, better oil will be the fight back for cars lasting multiple decades.