Return to Blog January 15, 2024

Electric Vehicles: Impact on Lubricant Demand


Automotive lubricants kept internal combustion passenger and commercial vehicles on the road for more than a century. As electric vehicles capture market share globally, demand for specific lubricants is expected to decline. It’s important to note that non-combustion engines require lubricants to reduce wear, enhance performance, and keep an EV running at optimal levels.

Do Electric Vehicles Need Lubricants?

Electric vehicles don’t use motor oil, which will put a dent in motor oil demand in the decades to come. EVs do require some traditional automotive fluids, however, along with some application-specific fluids developed to meet the unique demands of electric vehicles.

In addition to brake fluid, coolant and transmission fluid, EVs require fluids to meet the new challenges of keeping high-torque, battery-powered systems operating smoothly, including:

  • Foam control – At 18,000 rpm or higher, electric motors create high-stress environments. Even minute air exposure can cause internal fluids to foam, damaging internal components.
  • Motor cooling – Electric modules are sensitive to high-heat environments. These components are especially vulnerable near the motor and brakes, where both electric currents and friction generate elevated temperatures during normal operation. Existing fluids are being engineered to address the challenges posed by pairing sensitive components with hot operating temperatures.

EV Lubricant Applications

Lubricants for electric vehicles address many of the same needs as they do for internal combustion vehicles. The applications and the lubricants themselves will appear relatively unchanged or minimally reengineered.

Those familiar use cases are:

  • Wheel bearings
  • Suspension
  • Constant velocity (CV) joints
  • Transmission components, such as gears and seals
  • Electric motor parts, including bearings
  • Steering components
  • Flywheel
  • Air conditioning

Sustainability on the Road and Under the Hood

Most traditional components EVs contain will still need comparable lubricant or fluid levels, but even those input materials could change. Environmental concerns have pushed biodegradability and responsible sourcing to the forefront of consumer demand. Manufacturers are quickly engineering market-ready bio-lubricants that meet or exceed the performance of existing lubricant products.

Related: How to Improve Fleet Vehicle Maintenance in 5 Steps

The Future of the Electric Vehicle Lubricants Market

EV adoption will ultimately set the pace for the lubricants market, and timelines are shrinking. By 2030, roughly 25% of global auto sales will be comprised of fully electric or hybrid electric vehicles. Here is a sampling of the percentage of new cars being purchased that are electric:

  • Norway – 86%
  • Germany – 26%
  • United Kingdom – 19%
  • Canada – 7%
  • United States – 5%

In the US, government policy set a goal for 50% of all new vehicle sales to be electric as soon as 2030. At the current time, however, EVs aren’t selling as well as expected, due in part to the increased cost of buying an EV, as well as other economic factors. Auto dealers are starting to feel the pinch, and some are pushing back on that goal. Time will tell if the policy will hold up to economic and industry pressure.
In Europe, the UK and France are planning to ban the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2040, with the UK potentially moving this timeline up by five years.

Manufacturers Have Time to Adjust (But Not Much)

Despite the lubricant market being down almost 2% in 2023, the global lubricant market is expected to grow through 2030. This near-term growth is largely attributable to manufacturing and transportation in Asian countries like Vietnam. In that same period, demand in North America and Europe is forecast to decline roughly 1% per year.

Estimates vary, but researchers believe 2027 may be a tipping point for the EV industry. In just a few years, the most important barriers to EV adoption, including battery and materials costs and a robust charging network, should see substantial improvement. Changes to manufacturer, consumer and commercial lubricant supply will quickly follow, which puts a premium on access to, high-quality wholesale lubricants.

Keep Operations Running Smoothly with Tilley

Tilley Distribution is a trusted supplier of Mobil™ products designed to meet the needs of fleet managers today and in the electrified future. Count on Tilley to bring industry expertise and global resources to support your fleet’s move to EVs and keep every vehicle on the move. Speak with a Tilley Distribution representative today to get started.