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November 18, 2015

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Project M Aims at 0W-12 Grade, 100 MPG

HAMBURG – Shell Lubricants, Gordon Murray Design and Geo Technology engine specialists said during a press briefing last week that their Project M urban concept car is on track to be released by mid-2016.

The Anglo-Dutch oil major role in the project is to formulate lubricants allowing a very high level of fuel efficiency. “Close to the edge but safe, they can radically reduce friction while providing protection,” Bob Mainwaring, Shell Lubricants innovation technology manager, told the media gathered here at Shell’s Technology Center on Nov. 11. “The lubricants are an essential part of the fuel economy and should be viewed as a basic component of the engine.”

According to Shell, the world faces three hard facts regarding energy: demand is rising; supply is becoming more challenging; and the carbon dioxide produced by much energy consumption poses a serious threat. By 2050, Mainwaring said, three quarters of the 9 billion people on Earth will live in big cities. “It means twice the energy demand compared to today.”

Shell found that transportation accounts for 35 percent of worldwide energy usage, and this is where the partners on Project M say it can make a difference. “Energy abatement strategies must pay serious attention to transport,” Mainwaring said.

“By tailoring special material coatings for piston rings and cylinders, we are able to reduce even further the viscosity of the motor oil used for this car,” Eva Bednarik, Shell’s general manager for lubricant technology, told Lube Report. “These special coatings for the Project M car include diamond-like materials, titanium and other materials. We look into various options how to do [coatings]. It always depends on operating conditions such as friction and pressure.” Controlling friction and pressure allows for use of lighter lubricants than would be possible if those parameters were not addressed.

The designers plan for the car to use a 0W-12 engine oil, rather than the 5W-30 that is more common in new cars today. “Industry specifications do not yet recognize 0W-12, or even the thicker 0W-16 for that matter, and they also place many other constraints on the lubricant formulators,” Shell said. The American Petroleum Institute, for example, has not established fuel economy limits for SAE 0W-8, -12 or -16, so these grades cannot be licensed as “API SN Resource Conserving” or as meeting the ILSAC GF-5 specification.

The energy company is working with Geo Technology to co-design the engine and a lubricant that delivers exceptionally low friction. Geo Technology is a Roche, Switzerland-based engineering consulting company serving the automobile and motorcycle industries.

The predecessor of Project M was Gordon Murray Design’s T25 concept car for urban mobility, which debuted in 2010. It employs iStream chassis technology used in Formula 1 race cars. When GMD partnered with Shell to slightly redesign and conceptualize that car, the initiative was renamed Project M.

“This will be a demonstration car that we expect to unveil in the summer of 2016 at the latest,” Mainwaring told Lube Report. “What we plan to do is answer the original equipment manufacturer partners that turn to us with the challenges of emission reduction legislation. So we tell them that if you use lubricants of this type and you engineer your engine in this way, you can get closer to those targets with relatively low cost. It is up to GMD to choose an  OEM partner that can commercialize this car and put it on an assembly line for mass production. Shell is involved only in the lubricants and fluids design.”

GMD is an automotive design team based in Shalford Surrey, England. Its creator is Gordon Murray, designer of a Formula 1 race car and the McLaren F1 road car.

Project M aims to produce a gasoline-powered passenger car that can achieve fuel efficiency of 100 miles per gallon in urban driving, far better than existing mainstream cars. Shell acknowledged that electric cars do significantly better than the goal set for Project M. “But in final breakdown, if we factor in the depreciation value, with its U.S. $10,000 projected price tag, Project M is an absolute winner,” the company said.