Lubricants for Electric Vehicles: An opportunity for high oleic plant-based oils
The electric vehicle (EV) market is on an unstoppable trajectory of growth globally. With governments
steadfastly supporting EV adoption through various policies and incentives, the United States has witnessed a surge in EV sales as manufacturers recovered from the pandemic's effects and expanded their EV offerings. While the pace of this growth may vary, analysts project that the demand for EVs will continue its upward trajectory until at least 2050. But what does this mean for the world of lubricants?
Lubricants play a pivotal role in the performance and longevity of EVs, albeit in a different manner compared to internal combustion engines (ICEs). EVs have fewer moving parts and longer drain intervals, resulting in a lower volume requirement for lubricants. However, the functional emphasis and types of fluids and lubricants required for EVs differ significantly. Manufacturers are already taking proactive steps to develop fluids and lubricants tailored to the unique demands of EVs. The critical functions of lubricants in the EV landscape include providing excellent wear protection under the high torque generated by electric motors, maintaining viscosity with increased temperatures, safeguarding electrical systems, and managing the evolving needs of battery technology. EV battery capacities and power density will increase as the market demands faster charging as well a
s managing the heat generated. Lubricants such as greases, transmission fluids, gear box oils, E axle fluids, and battery and electrical systems fluids are instrumental in ensuring the smooth operation and extended life of EVs.
Among the promising candidate for these lubricants are high oleic plant-based oils. High oleic plant-based base oils and derivatives boast exceptional oxidative and thermal stability, as well as a high viscosity index (VI). These qualities have made them a preferred choice in greases, gear oils, and hydraulic fluids for years.
Soybean oil (conventional and high oleic) has been used in dielectric fluids for electrical transformers for many years. These fluids must exhibit good electrical properties with low electrical conductivity, compatibility with various materials, including copper, seals, and insulating materials, and high oleic oil brings higher oxidative and thermal stability over extended periods. Additionally, they need to possess high flash and fire points, low volatility, and a low pour point. High oleic plant-based oils meet these criteria admirably.
A notable advantage of soybean oil is its renewability. The oil is extracted from soybeans grown by U.S. soybean growers, aligning with sustainability goals, and reducing the reliance on fossil-based lubricants. In a world transitioning towards cleaner and more sustainable transportation, soybean oil emerges as a promising contender in the lubricant industry, supporting the burgeoning electric vehicle market while offering eco-friendly solutions.