Dr. Jens Sommer has worked as Senior Transmission Expert in Shell Global Solutions in Germany since 2010. Currently, he is based at Shell's new Technology Centre in Shanghai to support local OEMs. As Senior Transmission Expert, Dr. Sommer is in charge of manual transmission and dry dual clutch transmission fluid development activities, which covers passenger cars as well as heavy duty applications. 

j-a: With engine oils we frequently hear about the trends to lower viscosity for engine oils to achieve lower frictional losses, is the same apparent with transmissions?

Shell: Yes, it is same in transmission and axle fluids. Currently, the key driver for this is the legal requirements for CO2 emissions which are mandated by governments and authorities, such as EU, Japan and Korea, US and China. Our infield specialists observe all markets very closely to enable us to be able to adopt to our customer’s demands and trends.

j-a: How are transmission oils graded?

Shell: The grades are similar to the engine oils but while engine oils are based on SAE J300, the transmission grades are based on SAE J306 (both are related to the corresponding industry body). It is generally the same coding - e.g. XW-Y. However, while engine oils have values like e.g. 10W-30, the transmission grade e.g. are 75W-80. The first number is related to low temperature properties and the last number is related to the kinematic viscosity at 100°C. As an example for a transmission fluid of 75W80 grade: KV100: 7.1-11.0 cSt but having a max. Brookfield (dynamic viscosity) at -40°C not bigger than 150.000 mPas.

j-a: Do transmission oil developments receive less coverage compared with engine oils because there are less efficiency gains to be made and losses to address? For example with an 8-speed ZF transmission what difference in % or g CO2/km can transmission lubricants make?

Shell: Transmission fluids together with engine oils can deliver strong fuel economy benefits. Low viscosity fluids require a close co-engineering development between the lubricant supplier, like Shell, and the hardware manufacturer e.g. ZF. Therefore, we have strong partnerships with major players like ZF and Daimler but also with OEMs in growing markets like China.

j-a: How as a business do you provide global solutions for transmission lubrication?

Shell: Not only are there regional disparities in transmission preferences but differences in climatic conditions will mean differing operating parameters on start-up.

As previously mentioned, we have several very skilled infield experts who function as “ears to the customer”. Global OEMs prefer we cover many regions at once like Scandinavia/South America/Southern Europe. Shell is able to deliver the right product for the right application.

j-a: Do stop-start systems introduce difficulties for transmission lubrication? ZF has its HIS primer (hydraulic impulse oil storage), what other solutions have you encountered?

Shell: Every time an OEM introduces a new technology it makes things a bit more complicated, but because of Shell’s investment in research and development and technology, we are always able to have the right answer in this changing environment.

j-a: The other difficulty for you must be the introduction of on-demand oil pumps – what engineering challenges do they introduce?

Shell: This is very important because if you can fuel economy with fluid in the gears this could be negatively compensated (reduced) if there are strong pump losses. This is why it’s key for us to work with our partners and customers from the beginning of a new hardware.

j-a: With the low viscosity oils are there any differences in part longevity/wear?

Shell: The rule for Shell and for our customers is simple: Fuel economy without a compromise to durability. This means the requirements for a lubricant become much more complex which is why Shell invests more in to R&D than any of its competitors.

j-a: Does the WLTC that is proposed as a replacement to the EUDC introduce any more complexity to Shell?

Shell: Shell has the capability to react on this. In our world class Technology Centre in Hamburg we are able to not only simulate this but also to test this cycle accordingly and compare it with other cycles. This brings a strong value to our customers and is strongly appreciated.

j-a: What do you regard as Shell’s competitive advantage compared with the other lubricant suppliers? What is your competitive differentiator?

Shell: Our strong and long term partnerships transfer state of the art knowledge from applications like F1 Ferrari to our customers and our many decades of experience in the lubricant business.

j-a:  With factory fill how do you view Shell’s market share globally?

Shell: Shell has strong first fill positions all around the world with many well-known global OEMs (in all regions of the world) but we are also very strong in emerging markets as a consequence of our credible reputation in the industry.