Dr. Martin Webster
Senior Research Associate, Lubricants Technology
ExxonMobil Research and Engineering
Lubrication and Tribology Trends and Challenges in Electric Vehicles
Recent studies such as STLE's Emerging Trends reports confirm the adoption of electric vehicle (EV) technology is increasing and now represents one of the fastest growing passenger vehicle segments. This will have a significant impact on future vehicle fluid requirements, component design and overall vehicle architecture. While at first glance the use of familiar mechanical components might suggest otherwise, EVs will pose some interesting tribological and fluid technology challenges.
This presentation will cover the key drivers behind the vehicle electrification revolution. It will explain why electrification is an increasingly attractive route toward meeting current and projected future emission goals. A brief review of the major components that make up a battery electric vehicle (BEV) will be presented. The operating characteristics of electric motors impacts the design of the gearbox and driveline components. In turn, this impacts future lubrication requirements and introduces some significant opportunities for innovation. In particular, the need to balance supporting high torque loads at low speed versus lubrication at very high motor speeds represents a difficult compromise between antagonistic lubrication requirements.
Thermal management and cooling has emerged as one of the key fluid requirements in EVs. Multiple components such as batteries, motors and electronics have unique thermal management requirements. Currently there is a diversity of approaches being used to achieve effective thermal management, placing different demands on the fluids. One option of combining cooling and lubrication into a single system using the same fluid offers advantageous simplifications. However, the resulting fluid would need to meet a very demanding series of new performance requirements.
Finally, we will highlight the need for the pro-active participation of the tribology community in developing this rapidly developing technology. Previous experience in other areas has shown that tribology can play a key enabling role in early identification of critical challenges and finding appropriate solutions. STLE is responding to this challenge by providing featured content in its publications and a forum for idea exchange.
Martin holds BSc and MSc degrees in Aeronautical Engineering and a PhD in Tribology all from Imperial College London. In 1986 he received the Tribology Bronze medal from the I. Mech E. for his work on rough surface contact mechanics. Following spells as a Post-Doctoral intern at Shell Research and an engineering position at Taylor Woodrow’s Wind Energy Group he moved to the USA in 1989 to join Mobil’s Central Research Laboratory. Following a 30 year career in fundamental research and product development he is currently engaged in applied research within ExxonMobil’s Lubricants Technology Department located in Clinton, NJ. Martin has published papers, patents and text books on contact mechanics, EHL, traction, gear and bearing fatigue, micropitting, gear oil development, DLC coatings, mixed lubrication, hydrodynamics, new lubricant components, novel lubrication mechanisms and test methods. Martin is a co-author of the 3rd edition of ExxonMobil’s Lubrication Fundamentals textbook that was published in 2016. Over the last 30 years he has also been highly active within the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE). In 2006 he was elected to join the STLE Board of Directors culminating with him joining the Executive Committee. He served as the STLE President 2015-16. In 2019 he was elected a Fellow of the STLE.