The Rise of Electric Vehicles and Their Impact on the Future of Automotive Lubricants

automotive lubricants for electric vehicles marketThe ongoing shift of the automotive industry from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) has led to various changes in related industries, such as the automotive oil and lubricants industry.

As the technology and mechanisms of conventional vehicles and modern EVs vary immensely, the need and demand for their support materials have also changed. Therefore, the rising demand for electric vehicles has significantly impacted the future of automotive lubricants.  

Fluids and Lubricants for EVs vs. ICE Vehicles

The application of lubricants in electric vehicles is very different from their use in conventional ICE vehicles. In ICE vehicles, engine oil, transmission fluids, and grease are used to lubricate the engine to decrease friction and protect parts from wear. These lubricants gradually degrade as they get contaminated with combustion gases and need regular replacement.

The optimal fluids in electric vehicles are essential to reduce noise, harshness, and vibration in the engine to avoid damage. However, the lubricants and fluids in EVs must have several properties to ensure efficiency.

As electric vehicles have various power electronics components, the fluids must ensure the safety of such circuits and must flow easily through various parts with lower viscosity. Additionally, these fluids should also have anti-corrosion properties.

The electric properties of a lubricant mitigate electrical damage commonly found in electric vehicles. The thermal properties of a lubricant account for the thermal efficiency of an electric motor. Higher efficiency can be achieved by evaluating optimal levels of thermal conductivity.

Currently, the lubricants available in the market are the ones manufactured for ICE vehicles. These lubricants are not optimal for electric vehicles. Hence, research and development on the advanced lubricants for EVs are essential to achieve complete efficiency. Scientists are focusing on gaining higher resistance to copper corrosion and compatibility with polymers used in hybrid electronics.

Market Opportunities for Fluid Manufacturers

As the automotive industry is moving toward electrification, the oil and gas industry is facing a huge challenge of adapting to a market that renders most of its products obsolete.

However, in the past few years, these companies have changed their business strategies toward developing and investing in electric vehicle applications for their products.

Numerous leading automotive OEMs have partnered with fluid manufacturers to use their lubricants and coolants in their electric vehicles. As governments across the world are starting to implement plans for increasing electric vehicle sales and phasing-out IC engine vehicles in their countries, the market of fluids for electric vehicles is also bound to expand.

According to the BIS Research analysis, the global fluids and lubricants market for electric vehicles was estimated to be at $1.38 billion in 2021, and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.81% and reach $17.9 billion by 2031.

Development of Special Lubricants and Fluids for EVs

The prominent types of fluids that are being developed for applications in electric vehicles are greases, heat transfer fluids, driver system fluids, and brake fluids. These types of fluids have applications in various components such as e-motors, battery systems, bearings, constant velocity joints, power electronics, gears, and the braking system of electric vehicles.

Generally, various components of an electric vehicle generate a lot of heat during the operation of the vehicle, such as the battery system and the e-motors. These components have created the need for better thermal management in these vehicles. The new EV fluids have added additives and dielectric properties that make them suitable for application in electric vehicle components.

Some more enhanced properties of EV fluids are mentioned as follows:

  • Copper and power electronics—In electric vehicles, there is substantial contact between the electrically powered components and lubricants. The e-motors and power electronics in electric vehicles are placed close to the lubricant, and in some cases, the electronics part can also be immersed in lubricants. Therefore, the lubricants and fluids must have highly effective thermal management properties to handle the functions of an electric vehicle. Modern EV designs also integrate additional copper, power electronics, and plastics for insulation or to replace metal sections of the car—all of which have not been a part of conventional vehicle architecture. This means that chemical compatibility is now important for lubricant and fluid makers to prevent corrosion and other equipment problems.
  • Temperature differentials—The various operational circumstances in hybrid engines must also be considered while developing e-motor fluids. In contrast to conventional internal combustion engines, electric vehicle transmissions frequently have temperature differentials that are inconsistent. Thus, manufacturers of lubricants need to focus more on dynamic viscosity, density, specific heat capacity, and thermal and oxidative stability.
  • NVH and e-DCT—As a new and important factor that affects EVs, noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) must be reduced to improve the driving experience. An electric dual-clutch transmission (e-DCT), which is the preferred option for many contemporary EVs, can be a source of NVH. The whole driving experience might be adversely impacted by clutch trembling, gear and bearing noises, and poorly constructed e-DCT fluid. It is crucial to choose the right driveline fluid composition that offers the best friction performance to battle NVH and get rid of it.
  • Lower-viscosity lubricants—Since thinner fluids offer less resistance to moving engine components, lower-viscosity lubricants and oils are as common in EV gearboxes as they are in conventional ICE engines. Lower-viscosity lubricants will achieve smooth functioning since EVs are aiming to increase transportation efficiency, and their operation should reflect this objective.

The Future of Electric Vehicle Fluids

The demand for various types of coolants and lubricants has increased as a result of the expanding applications for new fluids in electric vehicles. To enhance the driving experience, which can lead to more sales of electric vehicles, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have worked with a variety of fluid suppliers.

The expansion of electric vehicle fluids market is also being fuelled by large investments made by governments and federal agencies in the form of subsidies and infrastructure development to promote electric vehicles in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The global market for fluids and lubricants for electric vehicles is expanding. However, several technical obstacles, such as greater costs and the viability of creating immersion cooling battery systems, are limiting its expansion.

Where to Learn More

For more in-depth information, read the newly published report Fluids and Lubricants Market for Electric Vehicles - A Global and Regional Analysis by BIS Research, which provides 314 pages of expert data and analysis.

About the Publisher: BIS Research is a global market intelligence, research and advisory company that focuses on emerging technology trends that are likely to disrupt the market. Its team includes industry veterans, experts, and analysts with diverse backgrounds in consulting, investment banking, government, and academia.

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