Rising incomes will mean more cars on the roads and more products being manufactured, packaged, shipped, and consumed. Meeting these demands will not just require more energy. It will also require energy to be used more efficiently across all sectors.
Efficiency gains result from technological advances and investment. We estimate that the energy savings to society associated with efficiency gains from 2014 to 2040 will be considerable. Energy demand over this period is expected to climb by 25 per cent, but energy demand would have more than doubled without efficiency gains. A continued focus on enhancing efficiency is one of the best means of providing the energy that society needs while addressing climate change risks.
ExxonMobil strives to improve efficiency throughout our own operations, and we also invest in and create a range of products and technologies to allow customers and consumers to become more efficient themselves.
Developing energy-efficient products
Many of ExxonMobil’s products enable consumers to conserve energy and reduce raw material use, which can reduce costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for society.
Our tire-liner technology has superior air-retention capabilities, thereby increasing vehicle fuel economy.
Our advanced synthetic lubricants not only can improve vehicle engine performance and extend oil drain intervals, but also reduce engine friction and increase mileage in cars and trucks.
Our industrial lubricants are designed to help customers extend the life of their equipment, reduce maintenance, and improve efficiency within their operations
Our advanced plastics and materials can save energy by reducing weight across a broad range of applications, including packaging, consumer products, and automobiles.
Individually, these enhancements may not seem like much, but the incremental savings are significant when stretched out across the scale of society’s need for energy. A small change in a big base leads to significant overall savings. For example, ExxonMobil’s fuel-saving technologies in one-third of U.S. vehicles, translates into a saving of about 5 billion gallons of gasoline, with associated greenhouse gas emissions savings equivalent to taking about 8 million cars off the road.
Our products are also being used to make renewable energy sources more efficient. In fact, ExxonMobil is a major supplier of specialty lubricants to the wind industry, which uses our products to increase the efficiency and reliability of turbines.
Investing in energy-efficient technologies
ExxonMobil also has a history of investing in technologies that hold the promise for revolutionary impacts. Many of those innovations are reflected in the efficiencies gained in our own operations.
Other parts of our investment portfolio lead – and have led – to a range of energy-efficient technologies that fundamentally change the way consumers use and think about energy.
For instance, we have invested to develop an innovative, on-board hydrogen-powered fuel cell system that converts conventional hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline or diesel into hydrogen for a fuel cell directly under a vehicle’s hood. This process makes a clean technology even cleaner by eliminating the excess pollution created by producing and distributing hydrogen. Measured on a “well-to-wheels” basis, this on-vehicle hydrogen fuel system could be up to 80 per cent more fuel-efficient, and emit 45 per cent less carbon dioxide, than an internal-combustion engine. This technology could also be used where small stationary sources of hydrogen are required, and we are continuing to evaluate opportunities for its deployment with potential partners.
ExxonMobil has also been a strong contributor to advances in battery technology that benefit hybrid and electric vehicles. The primary battery technology that enables these vehicles and many other electronic devices (the lithium-ion battery) in part owes its existence to ExxonMobil. The first rechargeable lithium battery was developed by the company in the 1970s.
In 2008, ExxonMobil won the ICIS Chemical Business award for Best Product Innovation for developing a battery-separator film that significantly improves the power, capacity, stability and safety margins of lithium-ion batteries. This development has improved the usefulness of the lithium-ion battery, enabling smaller and more powerful batteries to be used in next-generation lower-emission vehicles. It is an excellent example of the reach and effectiveness of a single efficiency innovation. ExxonMobil Chemical produced the film at a plant in Nasu, Japan together with Japanese affiliate TonenGeneral. While the company has since sold its battery separator film technology business, the technology will have an ongoing impact on hybrid and electric vehicle development.
Another example of how our investments and innovation contribute to greater efficiency is our new polyethylene plastics for films. These advanced plastics reduce the thickness and weight, but not the strength, of plastic for packaging, films, wraps, and bundling.
These flexible films are 20 per cent lighter when made with the new polymer, aptly named Enable, developed by ExxonMobil Chemical Company. The finished film products are a lighter load than before, so fuel energy needed to transport the products is significantly reduced. Creating the film itself requires less material and can be done at lower temperatures, a second means of saving energy. Finally, the fact that the polymer is cheaper reduces cost throughout the product chain and assures marketability. Efficiency needs widespread application to be useful. Enable is meeting that requirement.
Improving fuel economy
ExxonMobil is also actively engaged, both internally and in partnership with renowned universities and institutions, in research on breakthrough technologies for energy that can help promote fuel efficiency.
For example, in the past we worked to advance Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition. HCCI, as it is also known, would combine the best features of gasoline- and diesel-powered engines. Gasoline engines featuring HCCI achieve ignition through compression, like a diesel engine, increasing the efficiency of combustion. The result could be up to 30 per cent better fuel economy and lower emissions.
Between new technologies and the energy efficient products outlined above, we project that the fuel economy of the average vehicle on the world’s roads will be 45 miles per gallon in 2040, compared to about 25 mpg in 2014. Hybrid vehicles are projected to grow from 2 per cent of new-car sales in 2014 to more than 40 per cent of sales by 2040. This is significant because hybrid cars can provide about a 30 per cent fuel economy benefit compared to conventional gasoline cars. Of course, our products and engine and fuel technologies will improve hybrid vehicles for all the same reasons they make traditional combustion engines more efficient.