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Cars may soon be changing their own oil

Changing your car’s engine oil may be radically different in future, according to Castrol, a division of the oil industry giant BP. The days of greasy rags and catch basins full of dirty oil may soon be replaced by Nexcel, a system that integrates a reservoir of oil and an oil filter into an exchangeable module.

In a car equipped with Nexcel, an oil change can be completed in a mere 90 seconds. Once the process is initiated through an OBD port or dashboard control, all oil is pumped out of the engine and into the reservoir, which can then be swapped for a fresh reservoir with a clean oil filter. The clean oil is then pumped into the engine.

While this may sound convenient, it’s not the motivation behind this new technology. The main aim is actually to bring lubrication firmly under the control of the manufacturer. Even when manufacturers recommend high-performance engine oils like Mobil 1 New Life 0W/40, many people opt for cheaper alternatives or mistakenly use the wrong oil when they change their engine oil. Once engine designers can count on a certain lubricant being consistently used, they can safely reduce tolerances in favour of performance. The Nexcell system even verifies the presence of the correct oil by electronically handshaking with a chip in the new reservoir module before allowing the car to be started again.

This is the first radical innovation to the oil change since the very first cars went on the road. Even when undertaken by a skilled mechanic, an oil change is a hot and dirty job, and it can potentially lead to minor injuries. If this innovation proves popular, it’s likely that other lubricant manufacturers like ExxonMobil, which makes Mobil ATF LT 71141, will develop similar products.

The system also has green credentials, because it can potentially improve fuel efficiency over short trips. This is because engines equipped with Nexcel need considerably less oil, which means there is less to warm up. Used reservoirs can also be reused around five times, with the oil being suitable for recycling into new lubricant products. Used oil is currently mostly burned or used for low-grade products because it usually arrives as a mixture of various grades, possibly even with some brake fluids mixed in.

Expect to see the first Nexcel cars on the road by 2020, with them becoming more commonplace by 2025.

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