Castrol, the British producer of industrial and automotive lubricants, has launched a new piece of technology that could radically change the car industry by 2020.
The Nexcel fuel cell marks one of the most significant oil change innovations in automotive history. The container, which can be easily popped in and out of a car, makes changing the oil in your car a much faster and more efficient process. That’s because leftover oil in the fuel cell can be recycled and reused more easily. The process is also better for the environment. The new fuel cell is currently be tested in the new
Aston Martin Vulcan.
One of Nexcel’s chief architects says the Volkswagen emissions scandal has fostered the ideal climate for commercial vehicle makers to adopt the new technology.
Volkswagen is currently under scrutiny for installing software designed to defeat emissions tests. It allegedly affected 11 million cars worldwide. The scandal has put a spotlight on the technology used to measure carbon CO2 emissions.
“There’s has always a focus on CO2 reduction. It’s actually the ideal or perfect time for us to market this product to the wider market because there’s a focus on what products car makers can use to legitimately measure emissions and sustainability within vehicles,” said Oliver Taylor, a chief engineer at Nexcel to Business Insider UK on the sidelines of an Aston Martin Vulcan event in Marseilles, France.
“Reducing carbon emissions is what has united the automotive industry and now, more than ever, people are looking for new technological ways to reduce CO2.”
Nexcel, launched one week ago, is not just a big deal for the world of supercars. It could potentially change the way fossil fuels are used in the wider car industry for everyday vehicles and actually help bring down emissions and recycle fuel.
The Nexcel looks like this:
The company says the easily removable container reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on modern engines. It also dramatically reduces the speed of an oil change to only 90 seconds as opposed to the current 20 minutes.
“The oil change process hasn’t really changed since the dawn of the car and it’s a particularly messy and unsafe process,” said Taylor in a Q&A session later during the day at the Nexcel and Aston Martin event.
“Once you get a technician to change the oil, you have to get under the car, unscrew the bottom of the engine and to get the oil out. You need to have the engine hot to get the oil out. This leads to oil spurting out, which has to be caught, at everything from 100 Celsius to 200-300 Celsius.”
“It’s time-consuming and not very efficient. There’s also fuel wastage.”
But the biggest selling point right now is what it can do for the environment.
Usually when base oil goes into the car it’s golden in colour but then after it is used in the car, it’s polluted with various elements like soot, dirt, and other forms of debris. Currently, 25% of the oil changed from regular cars is thrown away. Only 10% of the remaining amount gets refined. An even smaller amount is refined back to a virgin state — meaning a tiny amount of used oil from a car is reused.
However, the Nexcel fuel cell allows the used oil to be refined back to its original state much more easily. That’s because of the device the oil is contained in and an electronic component in the fuel cell used to segregate the elements of the oil. Once the container is taken out of the car, the oil can be drained, re-refined, and used again much more easily.
Castrol estimates that if Nexcel were fitted onto every car in the world today, it would save more than 200,000 road tankers of virgin oil from being produced, annually.
On top of that, the company says it makes vehicles a lot more fuel efficient because of the electronic element of the Nexcel.
When cars are started, the engine is cold and the oil has to be heated up. However, due to the “electronic handshake,” which gauges the minimum amount of oil needed to start the engine, it allows a car to start and get running without heating up an unnecessary amount of oil. Think of it like energy usage of boiling a full kettle of water for a single cup of tea — it’s incredibly wasteful to fill up a whole kettle and to boil it for just this small amount.
Currently, the Nexcel is only fitted in the £1.5 million ($US2.3 million) supercar — the Aston Martin Vulcan.
“We usually start off with a small manufacturer that has the economic agility to roll it out in a small number of cars. We then use this with the view to roll it out to mass production commercial production in 5 years time,” said Taylor.
“However, we have tried out on smaller city cars and we knew that once we were able to do that with smaller cars, we knew we’d be confident in fitting this into mass production. We cant reveal exactly what cars we retro-fitted the Nexcel cell into but they were typical hatchbacks and saloons — regular commercial cars. We were able to do this and we’re confident that this will lead to mass production.”
Taylor didn’t reveal the current costs of implementing the Nexcel into vehicles but currently it would be rather pricey due to it being installed in only 24 Aston Martin Vulcan supercars. However, if it was to be mass produced this would bring the costs down.
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