Stuff: Big oil fights back with quirky electric car rival




Is this quirky little concept car evidence of big oil companies battling back in the face of increasing interest in electric vehicles?

Built by Shell, it is designed to demonstrate what could happen if engine maufacturers worked more closely with lubricant suppliers when imagining conventional cars.

Shell says the three seater car is ‘tangible proof of energy efficiency improvements that can be achieved by using cutting edge technology available today through a process of “co-engineering” whereby vehicle body, engine design and lubricants are all created together’. 

Tests are reported to have suggested that the Shell Concept Car would deliver a 34% reduction in primary energy use over its entire lifecycle when compared to a typical city car available in the UK.

It would use around half the energy required to build and run than a typical small family car available in the UK, with sample test results including a steady state consumption of 107 miles per gallon at 45mph from the use of bespoke lubricants, equivalent to a 5% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to standard lubricants available in the UK.

Built around Gordon Murray Design’s patented iStreamâ platform, the combines cutting-edge lightweight technology – the car weighs just 550kg – and is built using carefully chosen materials which have a low energy and CO2 footprint.

Mark Gainsborough, Executive Vice-President of Shell’s global lubricants businesses which backed the project said, “This is a significant automobile engineering milestone. I’m very proud of what Shell’s scientists and their partners at Geo Technology and Gordon Murray Design have achieved.

“Insights gained from this project could be transformational in terms of how we address energy use in the road transport sector. Energy use and climate change are major issues for society.

“This project shows that if we use the best of today’s technology, including cutting edge lubricants science, we could potentially have a major impact on energy use and reduce CO2 emissions.

“The improvement in economy derived from the collaborative design of engine and lubricant is impressive and highlights the enormous benefits achieved from close relationships between design partners. It also shows the powerful role that lubricants can potentially play in helping achieve CO2 reduction targets.”
The Shell Concept Car was independently tested at a UK certified automotive testing facility alongside a range of other cars under comparable conditions to measure fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

In the formal NEDC test the Shell Concept Car produced lower CO2 emissions than both a typical petrol-powered city car (28%) and a hybrid car (32%).
Shell provided all the fluids for the car, specially ‘designing’ the motor oil to complement and enhance the overall efficiency of the vehicle, principally by minimising friction.

Shell’s Lubricants technology team created bespoke engine oil, based on its premium product Shell Helix Ultra with PurePlus Technology. In parallel, engine guru Osamu Goto’s group at Geo Technology optimised the three cylinder petrol engine by re-designing and optimising many of the internal engine components associated with friction.

On the cold portion of the NEDC, these fluids reduced CO2 emissions by 7.1% and on the combined cycle by 5.0%, compared to standard lubricants available in the UK, again highlighting the value of co-designing engine and fluids.

A number of the car’s components were created using 3D printing.

The car also uses recycled carbon fibre for its body that can be assembled for a quarter of the price of a conventional steel car and almost the entire car can be recycled at the end of its life.