The next big thing

According to figures released by, the popularity of electric cars in the UK has shot up over the last few years. Today there are around 80,000 plug-in vehicles on the road, compared with just over 3,500 in 2013. Over the last few years electric vehicles have returned a constant 1.2 to 1.3% of all new car registrations with the doomsayers predicting the death of the conventional motor car by around 2040 when they would account for 35% of all cars on the roads.

However this assumes some great leaps forward in new technology which are yet to become reality. First of all electric cars are limited by their range and rely on heavy lithium-ion battery packs which account for around 35% of the cost of an electric or hybrid car. For these types of vehicles to really set motorists imagination ablaze these batteries need to become cheaper and have an extended range comparable with conventional engines.

Secondly it is no secret that electric vehicles are subsidised by Governments to encourage motorists to make the switch to cleaner, greener energy. In London most charging points are free at the point of use. Fast charging networks are appearing on many motorway service areas and even in hotel car parks around the south-east. Should electric charging become a payable item then the cost of motoring would begin to approach that

of more conventional vehicles and the risk is that the take up of this new technology would slow down. According to Bloomberg, by 2040 the displacement in oil caused by electric vehicles might be as high as 2m barrels a day, roughly equivalent to the current size of the glut that has suppressed the price of oil for the past couple of years.

But motorists can be fickle.

At the same time that we have seen the increasing popularity of plug in hybrids, we have also seen the average age of cars on the roads rise quite dramatically. The recession of 2008 caused people to think twice about non essential expenditure and many have hung onto their cars for longer than perhaps they might have done fifteen or twenty years ago. In America one in four cars today was made in the last century, and the average motorist drives around in a car that is ten years old. So what has all this to do with lubricants?

Last December ACEA released their 2016 engine oil sequences in response to the needs of OEMs for lighter and thinner viscosity lubricants to meet regulators demands for lower emissions and consumer demands for improved performance and fuel economy. Now the main rule of ACEA sequences is the backwards compatibility with previous sequences so that an engine oil today which is described within the 2016

sequences should provide no harm in use for older models of vehicles, providing that the right category of ACEA sequence is followed.

From a motorist’s point of view this could become confusing however. Old manuals denoting outdated or even obsolete grades and brands of engine oil could add to the confusion that already exists in the lubricant sector. If end users already find the range and choice of engine oils confusing then the added complexity brought about by an ageing vehicle fleet on the roads with newer engine oil sequences and specifications produced regularly in response to regulator demands could see motorists caught in the spotlight of outright concern and perhaps downright confusion. And I haven’t even mentioned the issues surrounding Dieselgate yet.

VLS believes it is the responsibility of every lubricant marketer to promote their products in a way that will support an effective purchasing decision by the end user. A decision that meets their need for effective lubrication in a given application.

As for electric vehicles? I don’t think I will be handing back the keys of my traditional four stroke motor car just yet.

Andrew Goddard, Chairman, Verification of Lubricant Specifications


• Do you believe that consumers and end users should be able to make an educated and informed choice about which product to buy?

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