Smooth moves in the new world of electric vehicles

Car charging at a BP Chargemaster charging point
The automotive industry is increasingly focusing on the development of hybrid and fully electric vehicles. As the engineering in electric vehicles evolves it is creating new technical challenges in the rapidly evolving area of transmission fluids, battery coolants and greases. We asked Matthias Donner, our Driveline Product Development Manager, about some of the technical challenges vehicle manufacturers are facing in the area of transmission fluids and how we are preparing together for the future.

Why do transmission fluids matter?

The Inside of an electric axle for a hybrid car
Not many people know they have transmission fluid in their car, but you’d notice if it wasn’t there; changing gear would grind and clunk, whereas a good transmission fluid makes changing gear a very smooth operation.  It plays a critical role protecting the gears so they don’t wear out. I work on the development of new transmission fluids. It’s an exciting time as the demands placed on transmission fluids in gearboxes and axles for hybrid and electric are different from conventional drivetrains.

What’s different under the bonnet with an electric or hybrid engine?

Under the bonnet of a hybrid car
Many hybrid and electric vehicles need different transmission fluids because electrical components, such as electric motors, are in contact with the lubricant and the transmission oil is operating at higher temperatures. In addition, the engines run at a much higher revolution which increases stresses on the oil, the torque on gears and bearings is higher and the oil needs to be compatible with components which conduct electricity.

What is Castrol doing to make electric and hybrid vehicles more efficient?

The approach we are taking is to work very closely with vehicle and component manufactures to understand the engineering problems they need to solve to make these vehicles more efficient and increasing their range. We’ve worked together on:
  • building the efficiency of the electrical motor and reducing the risk of electrical breakdowns by optimizing the electrical properties of the gear oil
  • preventing corrosion of electrical components through good protection of copper parts
  • improving the cooling capabilities of the electrical engine to prevent overheating
The rapid pace of development with the emergence of hybrid and electric cars means we need to work fast to find solutions. I find it very rewarding to be at the forefront of the engineering technology which is shaping the future of transport.