Castrol has announced what it's calling "a leap in liquid engineering" looking to revolutionise engine oil with the Nexcel system.
Nexcel is a system based around an oil cell, a sealed unit that contains both the engine oil and oil filter, designed to replace the conventional system that you'll find in a car today.
In reality it's a complete rethinking about how motor oil is managed and controlled in the engine and brings with it a huge advantage when it comes to servicing the car.
Nexcel is designed to be clean, as there's no pouring of oil, no collection in a pan from a sump drain and no manual changing of the oil filter. Instead, Nexcel lets you change your engine oil and filter in about 90 seconds, without having to scrabble around under the car.
Nexcel is making its debut in the Aston Martin Vulcan, the 800bhp supercar built for the track.
How does Nexcel work?
Nexcel works rather like the ink cartridge in your printer. It contains the engine oil and filter, as well as electronics to interface with your car for management.
The exact amount of motor oil needed is pumped out of Nexcel into the engine to then circulate and lubricate as normal, returning to the Nexcel unit to pass through the filter.
It can work in a wet or dry sump system, depending on the requirements of the car. With Nexcel, the idea is that you'll always be using the right amount of oil and the right type of oil, with a close interface between the car's management systems and Nexcel.
When it comes to changing the engine oil, you'll select a service setting on the car's management system. The oil will be pumped back into Nexcel and the entire oil cell is removed. The new oil cell is then slotted into the housing and the required amount of oil is pumped out again.
What advantages will Nexcel offer?
Castrol is pushing a number of benefits for the Nexcel system. When it comes to servicing, the job will be much faster and safer - there will be no draining of hot oil and no wrestling with oil filters. The oil cell simply lifts out of the car.
The second advantage that Castol is claiming is environmental. The entire system is designed to be recycled, from the Nexcel containers, to the filter and the oil inside. Castrol told us that the plan would be to re-refine the oil, removing impurities and reusing that oil, rather than straight disposal.
At the moment Nexcel is based around a garage or service centre conducting the work, rather than it being something you do as a DIY job. However, the simplicity of the oil change process means that mobile car servicing is going to be much easier in the future.
The speed element will also be of great appeal to the motorsports industry, especially, we'd imagine, those participating in endurance racing.
Castrol confirmed that there will be plans to licence the technology to other oil producers, so those needed a specialist oil type can be accomodated.
When will Nexcel be available?
Castol Nexcel is making its debut in the Aston Martin Vulcan. It's something of a match made in heaven, giving Castrol the opportunity to showcase this new oil technology in a motorsports environment in extreme conditions.
"We believe that the Aston Martin Vulcan sets a whole new standard in the ultra-high luxury supercar class, just as the Nexcel technology sets a whole new standard in engine lubrication. It therefore made perfect sense for us to bring these two innovations in engineering together, and showcase their capabilities," said Dr Andy Palmer, Aston Martin CEO.
But back in the real world, your car engine needs to be designed to work with Nexcel. This isn't a retro fit option, as designers will have to figure out how to accommodate the unit under the bonnet.
We've seen Nexcel working as a prototype in a Ford Focus (pictured in our gallery). It's no coincidence that it's a similar size to a car battery, but Castrol told us there's no barrier to making Nexcel into different shapes to fit into the design of a car's engine bay.
Castrol has confirmed that it is in discussion with several other car manufacturers besides Aston Martin. But because this is a brand new approach to the engine oil system, it's going to be some time before we see Nexcel hitting the roads in production cars. An estimate is likely to be 2020-25.
Who thought engine oil could be exciting, huh?