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Shell and Nissan: How E-Fluids play a role in Formula E

With a strong heritage in motorsports, Shell is now venturing into electric mobility to develop cleaner energy solutions for the future. The oil giant’s partnership with the Nissan e.dams squad offers a platform to further develop new technology such as their new range of E-Fluids, specially designed to boost EV performance.

We spoke to Shell E-Fluids expert and Motorsport Coordinator Chris Dobrowolski to find out more about the technology. 

What exactly are E-fluids? 

“Basically, E-fluids is a range of products which we use for electric and electrified powertrains. It’s a dedicated generation of lubricants that are tailored made for the demands or requirements which are not coming up from conventional powertrains such as integration of electrical components and electric motor cooling, this is what we cover with E-Fluids.”

How does it work?  

“We have three different product groups, the most obvious one is the E-Transmission Fluids. Electric cars have a transmission and with this, you’ll have gears and bearings which need lubrication. You need to make sure that the transmission is working efficiently over its lifetime and you can only achieve this by using a very efficient lubricant.”

“The second group is the E-Greases. For example, the electric motors and the bearings are revving at very high speeds. The bearings need to cope with this speed. As you can imagine, for a driver of an electric car, the car works very quietly, so you’ll obviously hear every noise the powertrain is making. With this, you need to make sure that the bearings are working with very low noise under very high speed conditions. This is what we focus on in the E-Greases product development.

“The third product group is on the battery cooling. The E-Thermal Fluids is more about looking into immersion cooling, such as battery cell cooling. This is a rather new technology because it’s not like the conventional water cooling as you have for the typical electric cars on the street at the moment.

“We think with this technology you can achieve a much more efficient cooling of the battery cells, and you can have a higher battery lifetime and a higher power output from the battery as well. But for this new technology, the battery needs to be designed upfront to be able to use thermal fluids for this kind of situation.”

“Formula E cars use a very compact powertrain and a very compact gearbox design, with very low volumes of lubricant in it. You need to make sure that these lubricants work precisely and at the right temperature conditions.”

How does E-Fluids work on a Formula E car? 

“The battery immersion cooling technology is already in use for the Formula E cars, so it’s obviously very interesting to see how this technology is working under very severe conditions. It’s the same for the transmission, the Formula E cars use a very compact powertrain and a very compact gearbox design, with very low volumes of lubricant in it, so you need to make sure that these lubricants work very precisely and at the right temperature conditions.

“Basically, we can adapt this learning that we observe in our Formula E engagements, and we use the championship as a test bed to further understand the working conditions for the lubricants under severe operating conditions and adapt this knowledge to serious development.”

Where do you see this technology in about five years time? 

“I think E-Fluids is basically a technology that is suitable for the next generation of electric cars. A lot of electric cars on the street today are using conventional lubricants, but we see a very high demand from the engineering side for dedicated requirements. In the next two years or so, there will be a big shift in terms of more compact and more efficient powertrains for electric cars and with that, you’ll need to adjust the components as well.”

Main photo: Spacesuit Media/Shivraj Gohil

Images courtesy of Shell Motorsport

About Noor Amylia Hilda
Noor Amylia Hilda is a journalist based in Kuala Lumpur with bylines in titles such as Women's Health, Esquire and ELLE. She is also a freelance motorsport journalist covering the FIA Formula E championship and Formula 1.