aftermarket emissions-mitigating equipment. Modern lubricants must demonstrate a range of new performance characteristics to satisfy the needs of new model hardware.

An increasingly fragmented passenger vehicle population further complicates things for formulators. Protection for new-model vehicles must be balanced with backwards compatibility for a vast number of older vehicles on today’s roads.

Lasting Impacts of COVID-19 Higher efficiency and reduced emissions were industry prerogatives before the pandemic upended markets everywhere. What will the impacts be for the evolution of passenger cars?

One of the most striking effects of COVID-19 was the fact that new car sales were expected to be 20% to 30% lower in 2020 than they had been in previous years (as per the global forecast by Moody’s Analytics). This figure turned out to be around 16% lower when year-end sales closed. In part, that’s because remote working reduced the number of miles that people travel, as well as the reduced movement within the economy as shutdown orders have kept people at home more frequently. In addition, consumer concerns over the spread of the virus have slowed the growth of shared mobility schemes like Uber and Lyft.

Despite lower sales, progress has not slowed. New car sales incentives, designed to clear inventory, stimulate production and encourage electrification of the fleet, are moving consumers toward more efficient options than previous generations. In addition, the clean air that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has placed more governmental emphasis on maintaining those gains as the pandemic recedes.

What it means for Formulators Today’s high-performance lubricants require a precise and complex formulation of additives, performance polymer, pour point depressant and quality base oil, tailored to the specific requirements of the hardware. Lower viscosity formulations also require natural thickening agents of macromolecular additives, performance polymers and new additive technologies, all of which are increasingly necessary to provide efficiency and durability.

Meanwhile, there is simultaneous pressure to produce finished products from safer and more sustainable chemistries. Consumers are more interested than ever in the overall sustainability of the products and services they buy. What this means in practical terms is that the scope of available new chemistries is shrinking, and fewer elements from the periodic table can be used in new formulations. As a result, chemists are now required to extract the same chemistry from less-resource-intensive processes, including energy usage. That means that some of the current chemistry may need to undergo reformulation.

Considering all of this, it’s critical to remember that the engine lubricant can only perform as intended when each of its many and sophisticated parts are correctly formulated and subsequently manufactured to the specified component ratios. Engine and field testing has demonstrated that even subtle changes to an approved lubricant formulation can have catastrophic implications on the efficiency and protection of the engine during its life. Additionally, any part change can invalidate the formal approval of the finished lubricant.

It’s a challenging time for formulators. The complexities brought upon this industry via changing engine hardware and market conditions will require expertise and innovation. For that reason, it is also a time of opportunity. Formulators who are able to meet the challenges of today stand to benefit well into the future with a diverse portfolio of high-performing lubricants that meet a variety of demands for new engine technologies.




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