Getting to green
With the sale of new petrol and diesel cars on track to be phased out by 2030 as part of the UKs 2050 carbon neutrality strategy, every stage of the automotive market supply chain is at a pivotal juncture of strategic and operational transformation.
As of May 2023, SMMT figures showed that 17% of new car registrations were electric vehicles with the UK’s roads currently having approximately 1.25 million electric and plug-in hybrid cars. While it sounds significant, this figure is equivalent to only the total number of Ford Focuses on our roads.
Herein lies a key tension within the automotive sustainability agenda. As alternative-fuelled vehicles are steadily adopted, the automotive industry also needs to ensure the existing legacy vehicle fleet is operating in the most economical and eco-effective manner possible. With the average age of UK vehicles estimated to be close to nine years, the next decade represents a critical window for responsible decision making and informed product choices to achieve this.
Both the goods and services on offer and the operational and logistical systems of the aftermarket industry are well positioned to amplify rather than undermine the carbon reduction efforts taking place at the top of the funnel while supporting the sustainability of the existing fleet.
The importance of high-quality lubricants
Using high-quality oils can enhance engine performance, including reducing emissions, and extending the lifespan of the vehicle. Well-maintained vehicles that use high quality, effective lubricants can increase their fuel efficiency by approximately 4%.
Furthermore, extending a car’s lifespan can generate an environmental impact comparable to, if not greater than, the effect achieved by transitioning to a new vehicle with a more fuel-efficient engine.
Making informed decisions about the oil used in vehicles can significantly improve their overall carbon impact.
Firstly, the first-fill oil – utilised for the initial filling of a car’s engine before it leaves the factory – can significantly impact the overall longevity and long-term efficiency of the vehicle. Rightly, manufacturers seek a high-quality first-fill oil to provide their vehicles with the best possible start which can reduce technical issues like plug fouling, damage to diesel injection systems due to a lack of lubricity, and oxidisation. Secondly, cars require an exceptional lubricant for optimal fuel efficiency on an ongoing basis. While driving, the moving components within an engine are exposed to unavoidable wear and tear. A superior lubricant plays a crucial role in reducing friction, cooling the moving parts, and maintaining engine cleanliness. A high quality lubricant that can enhance engine cleanliness while also providing anti-wear protection is a key factor in extending the lifespan of an engine.
Not all engine lubricants are created equal and when looking to extend the performance and lifespan of an engine, it is recommended to continue using the same lubricant as was applied in the first-fill throughout the maintenance process to ensure a consistency of quality and efficacy. In 2008 alone, nearly 3 million PSA vehicles were equipped with Quartz Ineo First 0W-30 as their first-fill oil and it continues to be a popular maintenance choice for optimum engine protection.
TotalEnergies has since developed a new first fill product for vehicles which require the latest new generation engine oils and which further reduces emissions. Quartz Ineo First 0W-20, designated by the ACEA as a Fuel Economy lubricant, demonstrated a remarkable 3.3% reduction in fuel consumption. Created using TotalEnergies’ proprietary eco-sciences technology, it protects against wear and ageing while delivering optimal performance and is now adopted as a first fill and recommended after sales oil by Stellantis.
Optimising every point on the downstream automotive journey
While extending the lifespan of vehicles themselves represents one of the most significant levers in redressing the automotive sector’s carbon footprint, there remain sustainable opportunities across every stage of the automotive journey that have the potential to accelerate the industry’s green transformation.
Alongside environmental pressures, the push for sustainability is being driven by a combination of top-down and bottom-up pressures framed by regulatory, consumer and commercial pressures.
Garage technicians, for example, are facing the need to stock a larger number of lubricant references in their workshops to meet evolving consumer demand and regulatory compliance, including environmental standards. Whilst accommodating a wider range to cater to evolving eco requirements, it brings challenges to legacy businesses in terms of available space, logistics, and waste management.
Customer demands are also evolving, with a growing awareness of the environmental impact of driving and the lubricants used affecting consumer decision making. However, a truly sustainable product is more than just the technical characteristics of specific lubricants. The entire supply chain, including packaging, waste, and recyclability, must be examined holistically to assess and mitigate the carbon footprint.
Each step in the journey, from ordering a product to the disposal of waste oil, offers an opportunity to contribute to reducing emissions. When it comes to making more sustainable choices regarding what products to stock, there are a host of new developments on offer to aftermarket operators framed by the waste hierarchy of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. This includes everything from the recyclability and circulatory of the packaging, to the volume of product that can be delivered and stored to reduce transportation-related emissions, to ensuring product design reduces to as close to zero as possible the risk of spillage and waste.
TotalEnergies, for instance, has recently introduced its QuartzBox, an eco-efficient packaging solution designed to meet the requirements of garage technicians and the motor industry.
Housed in a 100% recycled cardboard box, the packaging design reduces the use of plastics by 86% compared to equivalent volume rigid containers. The design also enables efficient stacking of six boxes per shelf when full and folding flat when empty, optimizing space utilization. This reduces the mileage associated with the product as the design allows for 20% more volume to be packed per pallet, leading to fewer deliveries and reduced road traffic.
In addition to packaging considerations, addressing the carbon footprint of lubricant production, distribution, storage, and disposal is essential in achieving incremental environmental improvements in the automotive industry. Tailored waste oil collection services can make a significant impact by collecting waste products and recycling them into new, high-performance lubricants, thus enhancing the circularity of operations.
In the ongoing mission to combat climate change, distributors and motor factors have a crucial role to fulfil in enabling the transition towards a more sustainable motor industry. The worldwide focus on reducing carbon footprints necessitates that the automotive industry becomes adept at facilitating and embracing change, all while ensuring the smooth functioning of transportation systems that are vital for people and the economy.
Fortunately, solutions exist. With a collective readiness to tackle the challenges ahead, the automotive sector can contribute significantly to its achieving sustainability goals and creating a greener future.