Automakers and oil firms push for use of higher-octane gas in the United States

Article by Christian A., on May 3, 2017

Automakers in the 1960s participated in the horsepower wars, and afterwards different oil companies took up the challenge to produce fuel that could prevent high compression engines from blowing up pistons. However, it all halted when the Clean Air Act was imposed. Further, preposterous insurance premiums and an oil crises wiped out any further demand for 100-plus octane fuel. Car enthusiasts then resorted to either searching for 100-plus octane race gas or just detuning their cars to run on 91 octane. Enthusiasts have done a wonderful job in converting power with lower octane fuels but these advantages might soon disappear without better fuel.

The Detroit Free Press reported that the automakers and oil companies are now developing and advocating for a new generation of fuels and engines that will run more smoothly. In turn, this will generate more power from a lower amount of gasoline, resulting to less emissions and better fuel economy. However, this higher-octane gasoline will cost 10 cents more per gallon more than the current premium fuel. The auto industry and oil companies haven’t figured out yet how to appeal to drivers with this plan. They are concerned that the consumers might be puzzled about the increased costs and won’t choose the higher-octane gas even if it generates more power and uses less fuel.

Octane is a measurement of a fuel's resistance to igniting upon being compressed in an engine's cylinder. Increasing octane will allow engineers to boost the engine's compression ratio, then it can facilitate an engine to run with greater thermal efficiency. In the U.S., gasoline grades range from 87 to 93 but this largely depends on the state. A rise to 98 octane will grant a 10 percent rise in fuel economy compared to the modern premium fuel. An engineer even presented the significant benefits of gas that’s as high as 114 octane but he commented that the price would be considered too steep by the public consumers. The Detroit Free Press further pointed out that raising the octane could be the ideal solution to achieve the lowest cost to increase fuel economy. Another advantage is that it will cost less than developing a brand new transmission.

But all of these can't happen overnight. It actually isn’t likely to happen before the year 2021. The acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality recommended in 2016 that the years following 2025 will be an appropriate time to introduce higher-octane gas. But all of these will not be a walk in the park, as the suggested plan would benefit only a few drivers at first due to the fact that there's no fuel economy advantage when placing a higher-octane fuel into an engine that is not compatible with the raised octane fuel. The reality is that vehicle owners have been wasting billions of dollars per year in getting the wrong kind of gas for their automobiles.

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Topics: united states

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