Spotlight on the HUBB Lifetime Oil Filter

You’ve likely already enjoyed the benefits of one of our designs and didn’t even know it. (Google Chromecast, anyone?) Over the last 20 years, Whipsaw has successfully reimagined products for some of the world’s biggest companies that have impacted a range of sectors, including consumer electronics, entertainment, housewares, MedTech, business, robotics, and wearables.  

That said, in this spotlight 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

The Hubb Lifetime Oil Filter

Spotlight Design Engineer

Marco Berkhout

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 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. At that point, they will pull over, have the HUBB scrubbed clean, and get back on the road.

What makes HUBB sustainable?

The name says it all. This is a lifetime oil filter. 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’s goal was to design a radically new type of oil filter that would: 

  • Work more efficiently than standard filters
  • Reduce oil costs by up to 50% each year
  • Protect the engine to a higher degree using minimal oil
  • Last longer with less frequent oil changes
  • Reduce oil waste and emissions 
  • Improve fuel efficiency 
  • Get cleaned and reused easily
  • Scale to fit all size vehicles and all types of combustion engines
  • Perform consistently over a 50-year life cycle

5 Questions with HUBB Design Engineer Marco Berkhout

Whelan: How did you attempt to solve the problems associated with traditional oil filters through 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 US 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.

Whelan: 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, unlike all others. (Throughout the lifespan of a single car, an average 50 filters are used and discarded.) With HUBB, 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.

Whelan: Compare the HUBB’s uniquely-constructed design 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. This ensures 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 this station, 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.

Whelan:  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. This means there’s 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.

Whelan:  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.