by Alison Gaines
“Nobody really understands European passenger car specifications outside of Europe,” said Richard van den Bulk, OEM liaison for passenger cars for European OEMs at Chevron Oronite Technology B.V., based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. “Even in Europe it’s hard to understand.”
He refers not only to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association’s (ACEA) Oil Sequences, but also to the many original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) engine oil specifications. The complex world of European specifications is an issue not unique to Europe, because European cars are plentiful in Asia.
Van den Bulk presented on the evolution of European specifications during the recent F+L Week conference organised by F&L Asia in Singapore last March.
OEM specifications, like ACEA’s, are about oil quality and protecting the engine. Van den Bulk said that at every OEM, there is someone in charge of lubricants, and this person “can have all kinds of ghosts keeping him or her awake,” today more than ever. These ghosts come in the form of lower viscosity oils required to improve lubricant fuel economy contribution, which can cause wear when used in the wrong engine; biofuels, which can increase oil degradation; emissions regulations and new engine technology which bring new challenges. Because of all these challenges and the demand for extended drain, the current ACEA specifications for engine oils are not strict enough for most OEMs.
By “new engine technology,” van den Bulk refers to the highly-loaded engines, particularly the turbocharged direct injection (TGDi) engines. He gave an example of two different engines, a Ford Focus Ecoboost and a Porsche 911 Turbo. The Ford engine has a one litre displacement and 125 horsepower, whereas the Porsche engine has a 3.8 litre displacement and 520 horsepower. This means that the Ford engine has 125 horsepower per litre, whereas the Porsche engine has 136 horsepower per litre. Van den Bulk showed this to illustrate that high performance sports cars are not the only ones with highly-loaded engines. Today’s downsized smaller engines are working just as hard, and so “all need high quality, OEM-approved oils.”
Biofuels, another of the “ghosts,” are a challenge because they can mean more oxidation, more corrosion, more nitration and more sludge. Many issues with biofuels are still being worked out, especially in the area of lubricant compatibility. If used with biofuels, some lubricants can perform poorly. Some of the new ACEA tests are therefore designed to set requirements for use with biofuels.
What’s coming up with ACEA 2016?
The ACEA sequences continue to evolve, with the 2016 sequence about to be introduced. Keith Howard, Lubrizol’s technical and field test manager for China, gave an overview of the ACEA oil sequences and recent changes at the conference. The light-duty ACEA class has eight categories, distinguished from each other by the limits on high temperature high shear (HTHS) viscosity, total base number (TBN) and sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur content (SAPS). Each category corresponds to a certain type of oil appropriate for a specific application. ACEA specifications are different from API and ILSAC in that it includes also diesel next to gasoline engine testshe light-duty categories are known as A/B and C, while the heavy-duty categories are known as E. The changes in ACEA 2016 mostly apply to light-duty categories.
ACEA 2016 was intended to launch in April, but Howard shared that a June or July date is now more likely. With ACEA 2016, A1/B1 will be dropped because “it is old and generally not supported” by OEMs, he said. A new category, C5, will be added. It focuses on an HTHS viscosity window, between 2.6 and 2.9 mPa·s, and requires a 3% fuel economy improvement in one of the tests, with both maximum and minimum limits for phosphorus. However, the fuel economy limits and potential phosphorus minimum thresholds are still under discussion and can still change before final ACEA 2016 is published.
ACEA 2016 brings six new tests for light duty, four of which are engine tests and two are bench tests.
The European Engine Lubricants Quality Management System (EELQMS) is in charge of ensuring quality in ACEA testing. The Additives Technical Committee (ATC) and Association Technique de l’Industrie Europeene de Lubrifiants (ATIEL) have codes of practice for data and performance claims. The Coordinating European Council (CEC) oversees test development and laboratory consistency.
The ACEA Oil Sequences is used as a “baseline,” providing the “basic” protection for most engines, reflecting the fact that it is now common practice for OEMs to have their own in-house specs. Today, there are more than 50 ACEA and OEM engine oil specifications in Europe, said van den Bulk. “This is the universe we have created,” he said, showing the long list. OEMs build their specs based on an individual ACEA category. For example, Daimler’s MB 229.5 spec is based on ACEA A3/B4, and has added requirements in the form of added Daimler in-house tests.
What does this mean for Asia-Pacific?
The Chinese car market is becoming larger (passenger car sales in China reached 21.1 million units in 2015, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers) and becoming more diverse. Van den Bulk broke down China’s 2015 passenger car sales—41.3% of sales in China were from Chinese manufacturers. Other main automobile exporters to and joint- ventures in China include Japan, Germany, North America, Korea and France. In 2015, about 20% of cars sold in China were made by French (3.5%) or German (18.9%) manufacturers.
Thus, “European OEM-approved oils are becoming increasingly important in Asia-Pacific,” van den Bulk said.
OEM’s main concern in Asia is fuel quality. Engine oils degrade faster because of low-quality fuels still being sold in some Asia-Pacific markets. This, together with unique driving conditions in Asia, like prolonged city-driving, is the reason why European OEMs mandate that their OEM approved oils be used
The fact that European OEMs have their own engine oil specs means that lubricant manufacturers will have to do additional testing, on top of the tests that ACEA requires, to get OEM approval. This means additional costs and complexity. Also dependent on OEM specifications are warranties. OEM-approved oils are required to be used while the car is still under warranty.
The drivers for ACEA 2016 are the increasing use of GDi and TGDi engines, the increasing use of biofuels, the push for fuel efficiency, and new seal materials, Howard said. Really, these mirror the concerns that keep OEMs awake at night, so to speak. As engines evolve, OEMs will go to great lengths to ensure that their engines stay protected.