The developing world of electric vehicles

Slower consumer EV adoption than fleet buyers but lubes development continue apace.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revealed that just 4.6% of UK car registrations by private buyers in 2020 were for battery electric vehicles (BEVs), compared to 8.7% for fleets and businesses. In total, consumers registered 34,324 BEVs in 2020, compared to 73,881 corporate registrations.

Greater support for private retail uptake is needed, says SMMT, which has released a report entitled "Delivering the Triple Bottom Line:  A Blueprint for the Electric Vehicle Revolution.

Whatever the trend in EV sales, the international development of EV lubricants is proving to be a significant challenge for the industry with EVs having more technical requirements than ICE. Not only do they need to improve anti-wear, friction reduction, efficiency, electrical compatibility and insulation but they must also cool the electric motor and battery pack. High acceleration in EVs requires lubes to remain stable at temperatures as high as 180◦C.

The smaller combustion engine in EVs means that heat stability and insulation properties are more important. Liquids must be the right velocity to minimize friction loss and be low enough to avoid leakage from the equipment. Electrical properties must be maintained to avoid electrical losses in the system.

With EVs commonly made of copper, lubricants must have good copper compatability to avoid breakage, swelling or cracking.

Responding to the many EV challenges is German-based independent lubes company Zeller+Gmelin which has established a new business unit to develop new lubricant solutions for the increasing shift towards e-mobility. The company is partnering with PEM Motion, according to Fuels and Lubes.

Christian Stapper, Lubricants product manager said, “Completely new requirements arise from the electrification of the powertrain and the drive system, which in turn have an impact on the properties and composition of our lubricants.”

Shell Lubricants has launched a new range of E-Transmission Fluids, E-Thermal Fluids and E-Greases for the EV market echoing the research that current lubricants, developed for internal combustion engines, do not meet the performance requirements of high-tech EV powertrains.

Meanwhile the increasing popularity of electric vehicles has driven what has turned out to be an advanced April Fools' marketing stunt, with Volkswagen announcing that the company had chosen the name Voltswagen for its US EV market.

“The idea of a ‘people’s car’ is the very fabric of our being. We have said, from the beginning of our shift to an electric future, that we will build EVs for the millions, not just millionaires. This name change signifies a nod to our past as the peoples’ car and our firm belief that our future is in being the peoples’ electric car.”