Shell Lubricants Contributes To Record-Setting Fuel Mileage Quest

by Jan Westell

HOUSTON, Texas -Shell oil was recently involved in a collaborative test that set a fuel economy record for the Guinness World Book of Records, using a Mercedes-Benz Actros Class 8 truck that ran on Shell premium diesel fuel and a synthetic Shell lubricant.

The truck’s fuel economy went from approximately 6 MPG, to 12.1 MPG, or 19.44 litres per 100 km -a new European record.

“We provide lubricants to Mercedes and the product that we were using over there was a product called Shell Rimula R6LME, and that is a 5W-30 engine oil that was designed for use in these Mercedes engines,” Dan Arcy, Shell Global Solutions’ OEM technical manager, explained during a recent media technology event.

According to the Guinness World Records, the record was set last spring. It took place at the Nardo Technical Centre, a testing facility with a 12-km (7.46-mile) circle track. The truck, fully-loaded to 40 tonnes, was driven in both directions for an entire week, 24 hours a day.

During this time, it stopped only to refuel, change drivers and change driving direction. One week and 12,728 km (7,909 miles) later, the average fuel consumption of the truck was established as being 19.44 litres per 100 km -a new record.

As a result, the Mercedes-Benz Actros earned “The most fuel-efficient 40-tonne truck” record by Guinness, a test that had the truck haul over 25 tonnes of payload at an average speed of 80 km/h around the track.

The test vehicle had an automatic transmission, wide-base tires, full fairings and other aerodynamic devices, according to Arcy.

Driving conditions were optimum at the track, including perfect weather, noted the technical manager.

“There were a lot of things that were all in place, along with the lubricants, the fuel, and the way the truck was outfitted. They still outperformed and set the record,” he said.

Rimula R6LME was designed for Mercedes with a lower phosphorous level than what is typically desired in the US, according to Arcy.

However, that product is not available in North America,”at this time,” according to Arcy, who noted that a similar product, the Shell Rotella T Synthetic SAE 5W-40, is the closest lubricant that Shell can offer on this side of the Atlantic. He noted that the two products do share some similarities.

“They’re similar in the fact that they are both full-synthetic products, but they do differ in the fact that they are SAE 5W-40, versus Europe (requirements) which is SAE 5W-30, and they do differ in their chemical composition.”

Synthetic lubricants are in greater demand in Europe than in North America, and Arcy indicated that this mindset is likely to change on this continent, eventually.

There are a number of areas where synthetics have some benefits over conventional oils, and one of the key benefits is that synthetics offer a wider viscosity range, according to Arcy. The Shell Rotella T SAE 5W-40 Synthetic can meet the low temperature performance of a 5W, while still retaining high temperature performance of an SAE 40 grade, he added.

“Because of having that wider range of performance, it actually gives you the ability to pump easier,” he said. “Again, it may only be 1%, but we claim up to 1% benefit, and 1% in a Class 8 truck right now, is somewhere around $800 a year savings in fuel, if you’re going 120,000 miles a year.”

In addition, he added, synthetics offer better oxidation stability.

“So low temperature performance and high temperature performance are gained through our product. I’m not going to say that that’s indicative of all synthetics out there, but it is with our product, on the high temp side. That’s really your main reason for improved performance out of the synthetics.”

Shell demonstrated a number of lab tests at its Houston facility, to show the benefits of synthetic lubricants, including a four-vial pour test, with one vial each of new and used synthetic lubricant (SAE 5W-40), and one vial each of new and used conventional oil (SAE 15W-40) after the product had been exposed to cold temperatures, at -35 C.

Shell’s formulator tribologist, Jason Brown, explained the purpose of the test.

“We’re trying to simulate temperatures in really, really cold climates, because we want to make sure that when you start your engine, the oil pumps and flows,” said Brown. “If all goes well, then our synthetic SAE 5W-40 sample should flow better than the conventional SAE 15W-40 sample. As well, if you look at the comparison of the new and used synthetic SAE 5W-40, they should flow about the same -which is a testament to how robust synthetics are, versus how non-robust conventional oils are.”

Shell’s conventional SAE 15W-40 new and used lubricants, both spread out in the pour test, covered the width of the test pan, and thickened to a gel.

“Imagine if you’re in the middle of winter, and you’re trying to start an engine, and it’s a Class 8 rig with 15,000 to 20,000 miles on it. You need that oil to flow, because what it has to do is lubricate the parts. If it’s not doing that, you have high wear. You want something with excellent cold temperature flow, like synthetic SAE 5W-40 oil in there, because even when it’s really cold, it’s going to pump. So you’re going to get oil protection,” explained Brown.

The new synthetic SAE 5W-40 flowed easily, while the used conventional 15W-40 was barely out of the vial. The used synthetic lubricant also poured faster than the new and used conventional lubricant, a result which did not surprise the tribologist.

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