Spotlight on the HUBB Lifetime Oil Filter
Whipsaw’s unique designs are everywhere. You’ve likely already enjoyed the benefits of one and didn’t even know it. (Google Chromecast, anyone?) Over the last 20 years, we’ve successfully reimagined products for some of the world’s biggest companies (like Cisco, Dell, GE, Google, Nike, Samsung and Uber) that have impacted a range of sectors, including Consumer Electronics, Entertainment, Housewares, MedTech, Business, Education, Restaurants, Robotics, Wearables…the list goes on.
That said, in this spotlight design series, our designers and engineers will reflect on what made their favorite projects so compelling. To kick things off, the spotlight is on HUBB.
Spotlight Design Engineer
What is HUBB?
HUBB is a combustion engine oil filter that captures five times more contaminants than standard filters, virtually eliminates oil flow back pressure, and lasts a lifetime. Unlike conventional paper pulp filters that clog easily and get tossed out once a year (and wind up in landfills), drivers can now enjoy 10,000 miles of uninterrupted cruising before pulling over to have the HUBB scrubbed clean and then getting back on the road.
What makes HUBB sustainable?
The name says it all. This is a lifetime oil filter. Unlike other products in this arena, HUBB changed the game by introducing a cost-effective and eco-conscious alternative into the market with a 50-year lifespan. HUBB rolls several environmental solutions into one:
The filter reduces carbon emissions; doesn’t need to be thrown away annually like the other guys; and is 100% recyclable.
The oily challenge:
Whipsaw set out to design an oil filter that checked all the following boxes:
- Works more efficiently than standard filters
- Reduces oil costs by up to 50% each year
- Protects the engine to a higher degree using minimal oil
- Lasts longer with less frequent oil changes
- Reduces oil waste and emissions
- Improves fuel efficiency
- Gets cleaned and reused easily
- Scales to fit all size vehicles and all types of combustion engines
- Performs consistently over a 50-year life cycle
5 Questions with HUBB Design Engineer Marco Berkhout
Whipsaw: Can you take us through the problems with traditional oil filters and how you attempted to solve them with this design?
Berkhout: Conventional combustion engine oil filters are flawed for two reasons: They don’t work very well and they’re an environmental nightmare.
First, there’s the functional problem: Existing oil filters are made up of a pleated paper pulp roll enclosed in a stamped metal can. The oil flows up the center, through the filter, and back down through the base perimeter. A bypass valve lets oil bypass the filter if it becomes clogged or when the oil is cold. The problem is that the paper pulp material clogs too quickly, which reduces its cleaning ability. This clogging also puts a drag on the engine and reduces fuel economy. (The paper filters clog easily partly because its porosity varies greatly— being both too tight and too loose for ideal contaminant capture.)
Second, there’s the environmental problem: It’s recommended that you get your oil changed every 3K to 8K miles. At every oil change, the oil filter is tossed out. In the USA alone over 400 million filters, drenched in oil, are thrown away each year— causing a massive hazardous waste problem. It was time for this old technology to be rethought. HUBB is designed to work better and last a lifetime. Every 10,000 miles HUBB is removed, disassembled, bathed in biodegradable soap, and put back in the car.
Whipsaw: What would you say is the single most innovative aspect of this design?
Berkhout: HUBB is the very definition of disruptive innovation. It takes a radical and novel approach to the old problem of cleaning circulating engine oil.
Perhaps the most innovative thing about this solution is that the filter is never thrown away, like all others. (Throughout the lifespan of a single car, an average 50 filters are used and discarded.) With HUBB, however, you only purchase one filter per vehicle, and it can be transferred to newer vehicles over five future decades. Considering how many oil filters end up rotting in landfills, this single fact makes HUBB profoundly impactful.
Whipsaw: Describe the HUBB’s uniquely-constructed design as compared to other filters.
Berkhout: HUBB uses a unique double filter system: a filter within a filter along with two valves. This twin filter core more than doubles the amount of surface area—which not only cleans better, but it means the filter lasts three times longer between cleanings. The two valves accurately regulate the oil pressure inside the filter, which means it has less resistance and puts less drag on an engine. That, in turn, increases mileage by 2.4% according to validated test results.
HUBB’s use of aluminum and stainless steel throughout means it’s also indestructible. We developed a filter that uses a very distinctive material: a thin-strand stainless steel micro-weave that captures up to 99% of oil impurities—ensuring only the cleanest possible oil returns to the engine. The filter mesh also has a consistent and ideal porosity that filters with the least amount of resistance or back pressure.
Since HUBB is made of metal, it allows for complete cleaning of the filter media. For this purpose, we designed a custom ultrasonic cleaning station in which multiple filters can be cleaned simultaneously to a level as good as new. HUBB offers all this innovation while still allowing users to keep the standard filter mount that’s on every automobile and truck. This makes for super easy adoption.
Whipsaw: How else did you factor user experience into this design?
Berkhout: To maximize widespread adoption of HUBB, we made the installation the same as existing oil filters, which means there is no learning curve or difficult manual necessary. We kept everyday drivers and automotive maintenance industry workers in mind while creating this design. Users save time and money by using HUBB as it increases fuel efficiency and dramatically reduces the frequency of oil changes. Users also experience peace of mind knowing the filters will not be thrown into toxic landfills.
Whipsaw: How has this design been received in the market?
Berkhout: The product has been endorsed and adopted by government organizations, large oil companies, and distributors alike. It was originally considered a business threat by oil change companies like Jiffy Lube, but since then it’s sparked a new interest in evolving from the disposable model to a cleaning one. Ordinary consumers and car enthusiasts love it, and race teams have adopted it for its performance advantages. There is perhaps no greater compliment in the field of automotive design than that.
The HUBB Lifetime Oil Filter earned a Gold medal in the highly acclaimed IDEA award; a GREEN Good Design award at the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture & Design; a Silver International Design Award; a Spark Best of Design award; and a Fast Company “Innovation By Design” award.