Nexcel is a reusable and easily replaceable cell, like a cartridge, that contains all the oil for an engine along with the oil filter. It’s being developed to be engineered into cars of the future. So an oil change will be as simple as lifting out the cell and replacing it with another, which takes about 90 seconds.
Because the used oil is contained, all of it can be recycled. That has significant benefits. The world produces about 6 billion litres of used engine oil every year but it is reported that only about a quarter is recycled back into lubricant. About 2 billion litres is not recovered by licensed waste companies and so ends up in local waste streams, where if not treated properly, it can be hugely damaging.
Nexcel will allow engine oil to be efficiently recycled and reused. It also does away with the need for oil to be stored and sold in single use plastic containers.
The system can also improve engine efficiency. One factor that determines this is the temperature of the engine oil. The oil becomes less viscous, reducing friction within the engine, as it heats up. That’s one reason why hot engines are more efficient. In contrast, an engine running on cold oil uses up more fuel.
When a conventional engine starts from cold, it has to heat all the oil in the sump – usually around 5 litres. “That’s a large volume of oil to be heated before you reach the optimum temperature,” says Rachel Fort, a chemist who is a senior formulation technologist at Nexcel.
But the Nexcel system feeds oil into the engine in small, precisely controlled amounts that quickly heat up. So the engine can operate more efficiently from the start.
In-house testing indicates that this, along with other lubricant technologies enabled by Nexcel, could translate to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 2 grams for every kilometre driven. “That may not sound like much, but every gram is important, “says Fort. “Over the lifetime of a vehicle, that equates to an amount equivalent about a third of the vehicle mass.”
How did Rachel's love of chemistry lead to a career developing more efficient lubrication technologies at Nexcel? (Audio only)