Testing and Maximizing Energy Efficiency in Engine Oil
Today’s engines are better designed for low-viscosity oils and synthetic oils. This shift towards oils that maintain viscosity more effectively at extreme temperatures means there are plenty of options for conserving energy. They key to that for drivers and fleet managers is to understand how to accurately fit the demands of an engine and maximize energy savings, as these updates can revitalize an operation, even when the energy conservation is just a small percentage higher.
However, there is no magic trick or steadfast method of concluding with certainty that an oil can conserve energy in your specific circumstances, until after it has been purchased. This makes it tough to take a risk with a new lubricant. An API Service Symbol may specify that an oil for gasoline engines has “Energy Conserving” properties, or you may assume that a low-viscosity, synthetic oil will be more efficient for your diesel engine. While these are helpful hints, the most accurate way to measure energy efficiency is through controlled testing, as oil specifications cannot account for every variable in your specific engine.
In any machine, an increased total output or decreased operating temperature can indicate energy conservation when switching to a new lubricant. In motor vehicles, the indicator is especially obvious: fuel consumption. An engine uses more energy, and therefore more fuel, when it must work against greater friction. Since low-viscosity oil is thinner, it flows easily and requires less energy to pump through the system. But, depending on special temperature conditions and manufacturer recommendations, simply switching to the lowest viscosity may not improve energy efficiency in all vehicles. Finding the proper balance is a deeper process.
Testing energy efficiency between different, multi-grade motor oils requires that all other variables are controlled in order to calculate the true benefits. Speed, temperature, load, driving conditions, and the amount of oil must be consistent when calculating fuel consumption between two or more oils. Noticeable decreases in fuel consumption may not be evident in one or two vehicles, this method works best when measuring savings on the fleet as a whole.
By measuring and calculating fuel consumption over the course of several months, you will find a more correct fit for your engine, especially when testing between two similar oils. While weighing the pros and cons of purchasing a new, possibly more expensive oil, the tangible data provided by recording fuel consumption can validate a financial investment and give an indication of a possible trade-off between fuel efficiency and wear protection.
To find the most energy-efficient oil for your engine, browse Keller Heartt’s full selection of Motor Oil, featuring trusted brands like Shell, Pennzoil, Quaker State and more.