I read a really interesting article in The Economist magazine recently. When we think of technologies developing in the auto industry, we often think about new ways to develop power or reduce fuel consumption. Often we miss the subtle changes that are happening because in the grand scheme of things, they are not exciting or perceived to be not worthy of lots of media attention. This is one such development.
Most of today’s drivers probably never do any basic maintenance on their cars, my generation and certainly my parents generation did and often still do some tasks. I would suggest that the previous generations used to do more maintenance on their cars than we do and it could become a dying art.
One such task was to change the engine oil on a regular basis – either time or mileage based. I hope that many people still do regular servicing on their vehicles as this ensures better mileage, better economy and longer life of the vehicle. One problem with the replacement of oil is what to do with the old stuff, often black and full of gunk!
That problem has now been solved by Castrol, owned by BP and one of the grand-daddies of the industry! They have been developing a device call Nexcel. Put simply it is a replaceable oil tank with a filter. It is connected to the engine management system to enable it to be replaced easily. The plan is that the car is switched to a “service” mode and this activates a pump to suck out the old oil from the sump and get it into the tank. This is then unclipped and replaced.
The old oil is then disposed of properly in an environmentally friendly way, rather than today or in the past where it could be thrown down a drain or dumped illegally. Much of today’s old oil is simply burned to destroy it. With the Nexcel, the oil, container and filter are all recycled thus reducing wastage.
To really maximise the use of Nexcel, car manufacturers would probably redesign their engines to be based on a dry sump design, like many high-end supercars because the Nexcel acts like a dry sump oil tank providing only the required amount of oil needed by the engine at any time. This could help reduce the size and weight of the engine thus improving the power and efficiency as well. The Economist suggested that the redesign of engines was a problem for Castrol, I don’t believe so, because this research is the cornerstone of every manufacturer finding new competitive advantages and better products.
Castrol suggest that this concept will be mainstream in the next 5 years, however, they certainly started at the top – the first “production” car to have the Nexcel is the Aston Martin Vulcan!
If you look closely at the image from Aston, you will see the Castrol logo under the door.