Battery electric will have to wait its turn. In the chase for reduced emissions, the government and truck and engine manufacturers aren’t done refining the diesel engine.
Greenhouse Gas Phase 2 regulations will further tighten what comes out of a truck’s exhaust stack effective with the 2027 model year, but with much of the low hanging emission fruit already picked, OEMs have turned to engine oil manufacturers for some help.
In 2016, oil manufacturers introduced CK-4 and FA-4 formulations that were designed to aid engine manufacturers in meeting emissions regulations for the 2017 model year. With those regulations once again tightening for the 2027 model year, the Engine Manufacturers Association in March 2021 requested the Diesel Engine Oil Advisory Panel (DEOAP) to establish a New Category Evaluation Team (NCET), and almost a year ago NCET suggested proceeding and officially kicked off the test development phase of Proposed Category – PC-12.
Joining Jason and Matt this week on CCJ’s 10-44 is Shawn Whitacre, senior staff engineer with Chevron Lubricants, and he discusses what these two likely forthcoming engine formulations will mean for trucking fleets.
Contents of this video
00:00 PC-12 oil formulation
03:13 Useful life requirement of the emission control system
04:23 Changes to engine oil formulations
06:52 0W-20 engine oil
07:19 FA-4 engine oils gaining popularity with fleets
09:37 Bankable backend benefits/Fuel economy performance
10:45 PC-12 engine oils available December 2026
This week’s 10-44 is brought to you by Chevron Delo 600 ADF ultra low ash diesel engine oil. It’s time to kick some ash.
Electric might be the future, but we’re not through innovating the diesel engine just yet. Hey everybody, welcome back to the 10-44, a weekly webisode from the editors here at CCJ. I’m Jason Cannon and my co-host on the other side is Matt Cole. The future of emissions is zero emissions, but there’s a long road ahead to get there. The interim’s going to be a period of reduced emissions, meaning more changes in refinements are on deck for the diesel engine.
One of those changes will come via change in engine oil specification. In 2016, oil manufacturers introduced CK4 and FA4 formulations that were designed to aid engine manufacturers in meeting emissions regulations for the 2017 model year. That’s the oil you buy today. This process is about to get underway again for the 2027 model year.
I know what you’re thinking. 2027’s a long time away, and who cares? Well, if you’re on a three to five year trade cycle and you take on new trucks this coming year, your next replacement cycle will be subject to 2027 emission regulations. Now in the coming years, you’re going to hear a lot about PC12, and that’s sort of the vernacular for this next generation engine oil formulation. And Sean Whitacre, Chevron Lubricants senior staff engineer, he’s going to tell us how and why we got to where we are.
So PC-12 refers to what we call proposed category 12, and it’s a new heavy-duty engine oil performance category. And it was formerly requested by the engine builders in early 2021. And their request is for this, it’s actually a new specification for heavy-duty engine oil, and it’s intended to be what we call licensable by late 2026. And this is because they anticipate needing it for the 2027 model year, which is when we expect the next round of emission regulations to take effect.
So we’re taping this here in late November 2022. And as of this moment, these EPA standards are not yet finalized. They’re in a stage what we call the notice of proposed rulemaking and EPA is busy gathering input on that proposal and trying to craft it into final regulations, which we would expect to be fully ratified by the end of this year. And what we know about these regulations is like many of them in the past, they’re going to have implications on lubricant quality. Notably the standards, they’re going to make NOx requirements even more stringent than they are today.
So we got really low NOx requirements back in 2010. They’re going to move the decimal point another place, and it’s going to require another 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, even from where we’re at today. And in parallel, you’ve got greenhouse gas emissions standard that continue to phase in. And we think that there’s more likely on the horizon. And the net effect is engines are going to have to continue to get cleaner more efficient. And as we’ve seen with previous emission standards, there’s going to be implications on the lubricant.
Beyond emissions, EPA is set to lengthen the useful life requirement of the emission control system. Basically, the agency will require that an engine maintain the acceptable emission level for its model year for a longer period. In this case about twice as long or more.
An engine needs to not only comply with the regulations when it rolls off the assembly line, but it’s mandated that it meet emissions compliance out to roughly 435,000 miles today. Those standards, depending on how the proposal shakes out, will increase to as high as maybe 800 or a million miles. So that’s almost a doubling of the useful life requirements of the devices as they stand today.
If things play out as intended, you’ll see a full migration from CK4, which is the oil that most fleets are using today to CL4 and from FA4 to FB4. And these engine oils, they’re going to be designed to hand on even more complex emission control system and their margin for performance degradations going to be even tighter. But Shawn reminds us, we’ve been here before, just maybe not quite this far.
You may recall that back in 2007 with the CJ4 categories, the first time that we implemented what we call chemical limit, and this was when we were first implementing diesel after-treatment systems in this market. And that standard put caps on the amount of sulfated ash and phosphorus and sulfur that can be used in an oil formulation. And that’s because these compounds, when they get consumed over time and they end up in the tailpipe, and they can hinder the performance of the emission control system over time.
And engine builders are deliberating whether they need to go further and kind of further constrain the levels of those contaminants that can be used in engine oil in light of these new emission requirements. But the other driver is fuel economy. As you know, in 2017 when we introduced the last category, we introduced the FA4 category as part of PC11, and that really allowed us to unlock the fuel economy advantage of those lower viscosity oils. And those at that time included 5W and 10W30 oils with a lower high temperature, high shearer viscosity than is previously allowed. And certainly that isn’t allowed in current C category products.
But for PC 12, the on-highway engine builders have asked that we go even further. And so they’re looking to put 5 and 0W-20s in scope. So unlocking just an incremental fuel economy advantage and the advantages don’t stop there. I mean, as usual, they’re looking for other performance attributes. We’re likely to see an improvement in oxidation stability that will help keep drain intervals long, additional wear control requirements by incorporating tests that were only previously part of certain OEM specs.
And we’re right in the middle of the deliberations about exactly what this category is going to entail, but we’re starting to converge on a pretty solid framework and going to start working on implementation in the very near future. PC11, when we first introduce that dual category system, CK4 and FA4, so we feel that end users are already accustomed to that distinction, and PC12 is in a lot of ways just going to build upon that foundation. So you’ll see these changes to the formulating profiles. Maybe with the tighter chemical limits, you’re going to see an expansion of viscosity grade. But it’s going to be sort of in the same framework that we’re used to today.
0W-20 is something you might find in a Honda Civic, not a Class 8 truck, unless you’re watching this 10-44 episode from across the Atlantic.
Clearly, the expansion to the 20 weight oils is notable because that would be a first for the heavy-duty market, at least here in the US. These are viscosity grades that are starting to become prevalent in modern engines in Europe and are just starting to be considered with this new category here in the US.
CK4 oils are currently, by far, the most preferred engine oil formulation for trucking fleets. But Shawn says FA4 is starting to gain some more traction as fleets dispose of older equipment. And these next generation lower viscosity engine oils are likely to gain even more traction with these tightening greenhouse gas regulations.
There’s embracing of the advantages from FA4 oils and certainly the current fuel price environment is stimulating that to some extent. I don’t know when the tipping point is, but these emission regulations, the greenhouse gas regulations, are really pushing engine builders to really develop clean more efficient engines. And they just know that when they factory fill with these products and encourage their use in the aftermarket, that’s really the path to unlocking the fuel economy advantage that the customers want that the regulations demand.
This new generation engine oil is mostly designed for the benefit of mankind. If you want to look at it like that. Cleaner air is good for everyone, but Shawn said there should also be some bankable backend benefits to fleet operators as well. He tells us what those are after this word from 10-44 sponsor Chevron lubricants.
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You’re going to see it through continued evolution of fuel economy performance. I mean, I can’t believe today we’re seeing eight, nine mile a gallon products. I mean, it used to be that sort of five to seven at the top mile per gallon was sort of all you could expect to achieve in a Class 8 truck. That’s not the case anymore. And I think as these greenhouse gas regulations get tighter, as we start looking at various other ways to improve fuel economy, including through the lubricant, that’s clearly going to be advantage.
One thing that’s never changed is that engine builders are constantly pressured to increase maintenance intervals, and so they’re looking at things like increasing the drain interval of the lubricant, but also even some of the maintenance aspects of the emission control system itself. We’ve talked before about ash cleaning requirements and how that can have impact on the time it takes units out of service, but also even just fuel economy advantages that you can gain by keeping those systems clean, keeping back pressures low, and keeping the trucks on the road.
The expectation is that these PC12 engine oils will be licensed and available to fleets by December of 2026. It’s four years from right now. And Shawn says there’s a lot of work to be done in those 48 months.
So right now, I’m part of what’s called the PC12 New Category Development team. This is a cross-functional team that’s oil marketers, and additive companies, and engine builders that we kind of come together and agree on the right framework for the category, what tests are going to be to encompass this performance standard, and kind of precisely what those limits and requirements will be. We’ll continue on that journey for the next year or so until we can kind of get a solid specification established.
And then it really becomes in the hands of the oil and additive companies to formulate around that, because we need to make sure that products are developed and validated in time for the 2026 timeframe so that they can be on the shelf and able to support that 2027 model year. Kind of feels like that’s a long way away, but in reality it’s not, because there’s a lot of work to do both in terms of defining the category and developing the products that meet it. To a large extent and maybe a little bit too early for the end user to pay too much attention to this.
I mean, certainly having awareness is important. In the coming years though, I think as you start thinking about trade cycles and new equipment, having the discussion with your engine builder, it’s important to kind of understand all these various impacts, not just the oil, but what’s happening with the aftertreatment systems, what’s happening to fuel economy performance, and really kind of being prepared to best leverage all of these improvements to make your business more efficient and more profitable.
One thing that we do see, and certainly in certain big fleets, certain outfits that do like to stay on the cutting edge, is to get partnered up with suppliers and be involved in field testing of the next generation products. Even though these won’t be licensable until 2027, we’re going to be doing work in the meanwhile to demonstrate their performance and validate real world operation and kind of field testing is one way we do it. It’s the same thing that the engine builders do. They have to test product in real world applications.
And so I know having worked for an engine builder for many years, that that’s also inherent and a lot of the big fleets to be involved in that kind of thing, so that they can stay kind of in tune with the cutting edge and be prepared for what’s coming down the road.
That’s it for this week’s 10-44. You can read more on CCJDigital.com. And as always, you can find the 10-44 each week on CCJ‘s YouTube channel. And if you’ve got questions, comments, criticisms, or feedback, please hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (404) 491-1380. Until next week, everybody stay safe.