You are here

Vehicle Technologies Office: Lubricants Research and Development

Investigating technologies such as lubricants that will improve the efficiency of today's vehicles is essential, as most vehicles are on the road for more than 15 years before they are retired. The Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) supports research and development (R&D) on lubricants that can improve the efficiency of vehicles with internal combustion engines. Because 11.5 percent of fuel energy is consumed by engine friction, improving lubricants enough to result in a 1 percent fuel savings in the existing vehicle fleet could save more than 90 thousand barrels of oil a day.

Research that the Vehicle Technologies Office supports includes:

  • Developing better base oils and oil additives that have the potential to improve the mechanical efficiency of internal combustion engines by 10 percent without causing increased wear, emissions, or damage to emission aftertreatment systems. In particular, using ionic liquids (salts in a liquid state) as lubricants or lubricant additives, which may result in 30 percent less friction than comparable lubricants.
  • Work to improve the understanding of the relationship between benchtop and engine tests when studying friction and wear performance data. This work will help improve standards and the accuracy of future research.
  • Developing and optimizing tribochemical films (the protective layer that forms on metal surfaces when using oil additives) to reduce friction, reduce wear, and improve fuel economy.
  • Developing additives to lubricants that are compatible with the use of higher levels of biofuels that will enable the adoption of low carbon fuels.

For more information on VTO's research into lubricants, contact Michael Weismiller.