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Water-based lubricants make the vehicles of the future ready to roll

CEVT, the innovation Centre within Geely family, SKF and Luleå University of Technology are collaborating in an exciting new research project that is advancing the position on how water-based lubricants can improve the already high efficiency of electric vehicles.

Gothenburg, Sweden 16 June 2021: Lubrication is one of the key components for efficient rotation. As the future demand of electric and environmentally friendly vehicles increases, every key component must be as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Today, there are water-based lubricants in development that can potentially be used with positive effect on the electric drive train efficiency. The main benefits with a water-based lubricant is the substantial reduction in friction losses and better thermal properties compared to a traditional oil, but the product lifetime of transmission components such as bearings and gears should not be compromised.

To realise a potential industrialisation of water-based lubricants in our transmissions there are areas ranging from micro geometries to system level design that need to be understood and developed.

To harvest the improvements and address the challenges, the Swedish Energy Agency has just granted CEVT resources to lead a joint project together with SKF and Luleå Technical University to explore how water-based lubricants can improve the already high efficiency of electric vehicles.

“Energy efficiency will always be a high focus area in CEVT. It must be. Our customers expect nothing less. This project enables a close collaboration with strategic industry partners as well as with the academia. The likelihood that this will be implemented in future industrialization projects is great. It will be a win not only for the partners in the project but for the environment, says” Tommy Brandt, System Engineer at CEVT.

SKF has supplied components and systems to the automotive industry since the 1920’s and today supplies a large part of the world’s vehicle manufacturers. SKF continues to develop technology in this area.

“The electric vehicles of the future place new demands on materials and technologies. Through this collaboration we will expand our knowledge of water-based lubricants, giving us great insight into the future needs of sustainable vehicles,” says Gregory Zimmerman, SKF Director Product Line Electric Vehicles.

The name of the new research project is Longer Driving Range by Efficient Transmissions. The project will focus on enhanced understanding of water-based lubrication of bearings, tribological effects on gears and transmission level requirements for the use of water-based lubricants.

“With this grant from the Swedish Energy Agency, we will be able to take important steps to realize water-based lubrication in future transmissions. The project is a win, win, win that will deepen our knowledge on system level design of transmissions for the use of water-based lubricants. It will expand our cooperation with the academic expertise in the field of tribology at Luleå Technical University and through the partnership with SKF we secure the knowledge build up in one of the most critical areas of our transmissions. We have managed to form a strong project line-up! We need the supplier’s expertise and the suppliers need our system level know-how for water-based lubrication to happen. This is true also for the suppliers of the actual lubricants who will now benefit from a strong development partner”, says Tommy Brandt.

“We look forward to continue our work on water-based lubricants since it is a way to reduce the use of oils with fossil origin. It is very exciting to start optimizing the tribological system for a completely new type of lubricants. Oil lubricants have been developed over more than a hundred years. Now we must learn how surfaces and materials must be chosen to maximise performance for this lubricant as well. This project is perfectly in line with the research strategy of Luleå University of Technology. It will be a part of the research platform Creaternity which aims at finding sustainable and circular engineering solutions”, says Roland Larsson, professor and scientific leader at Luleå University of Technology.

The project has been granted 6.2 MSEK in this project. The process to start up the project will now commence.

SKF’s mission is to be the undisputed leader in the bearing business. We do this by offering solutions that reduce friction and CO2 emissions, whilst at the same time increasing machine uptime and performance. Our products and services around the rotating shaft, include bearings, seals, lubrication management, artificial intelligence and wireless condition monitoring. SKF is represented in more than 130 countries and has around 17,000 distributor locations worldwide. Annual sales in 2020 were SEK 74 852 million and the number of employees was 40,963.

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