Editorial: Rising to the challenge

  • 17-Jun-2011 03:29 EDT

A Shell technical partnership with Gordon Murray Design on the innovative T.25 city vehicle resulted in a concept engine lubricant that increased overall vehicle fuel efficiency by up to 6.5%.

The 11th edition of the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, the international forum devoted to sustainable road mobility, officially opened its doors on May 19, setting up shop for four days at Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport. During the impressive gathering, the eco-performance of nearly 200 vehicles was compared during a series of test drives and rallies. A series of workshops and seminars was also held on the sidelines to assess the current and future state of sustainable mobility.

Germany used the forum to underline its commitment to research in electrified mobility. The nation’s electromobility platform, or Nationale Plattform Elektromobilität (NEP), has an objective of getting 1 million electric vehicles onto its roads by 2020.

Bibendum Challenge participants, especially the OEMs taking part in the rally and exhibit portion of the event, also wanted to burnish their sustainability credentials with electrified vehicles.

Renault was quick to point out that its Fluence Z.E. electric vehicle captured more than a handful of awards, including first place in the 300-km (186-mi) intercity rally. The car’s well-to-wheels CO2 output was calculated at 57 g/km, or 8% better than the vehicle’s official figure. The car took first place in the maneuverability test on the circuit at 2.02 min, a surprising 5 s quicker than the fastest of the Teslas, the company pointed out. It also won a design award for having the best integrated recharging solution.

Conventional powertrain technologies were able to share in some of the limelight. Event organizers included categories for vehicles with the conventional and ever-improving internal-combustion engine (ICE). Intercity passenger car rally winners were the Audi A3 TCNG (ICE prototype) and the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid (ICE production).

Executives from Bibendum Challenge Associate Sponsor Royal Dutch Shell predicted that two-thirds of vehicles will still use current engine technologies and conventional liquid fuels in 2050. They also emphasized that a collaborative approach to engine design would be critical to maximize fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions over the next 40 years.

Tan Chong Meng, Executive Vice President of Shell’s Global Commercial business, said the progress needed to help deliver the necessary efficiency gains would only happen through long-term co-engineering partnerships in which fuels, lubricants, and vehicles are developed in collaboration. “We believe that one of the best and fastest ways to improve fuel economy and therefore lower CO2 emissions from conventional fuels is [for Shell] to work more closely with OEMs,” he said.

Selda Gunsel, Vice President of Shell Global Commercial Technology, added that more radical thinking would be essential. She said this could include development of lubricant formulations that sit outside current industry specifications, aspects of which may be outdated and not conducive to more fuel-efficient technologies.

The benefits of a more collaborative approach were illustrated in Shell’s technical partnership with Gordon Murray Design. The company’s innovative T.25 city vehicle was used as a testbed to develop new oil formulations. Working outside current industry specifications, a joint team developed a concept engine lubricant that increased overall vehicle fuel efficiency by up to 6.5%, or about three times the savings seen with recently introduced efficiency-focused lubricant formulations.

This one example illustrates that more significant gains can be accomplished through innovative partnering initiatives. Chong Meng emphasized, “If we can work together even more closely in the future, then I am really optimistic that we can ensure our customers have cleaner, more efficient engines, fuels, and lubricants in the decades ahead.”

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