Are We Headed Towards a High-Octane Future? The EPA Thinks So

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
are we headed towards a high octane future the epa thinks so

Low-octane gasoline. It was great for the detuned boat anchors found under the hoods of 1970s Malaise-era barges, because you weren’t having fun, anyway.

The future of gasoline-powered vehicles is all about high-compression engines and ever-stricter environmental regulations, meaning gasoline with higher octane than today’s pumps can provide could be on the horizon.

In an interview with Automotive News, Chris Grundler, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of transportation and air quality, said higher-octane gas is a key part of the push for greener engines.

Speaking at a recent auto industry conference, Grundler said the EPA is collecting data about the emissions-reducing benefits of higher hi-test fuel. Don’t expect the regulator to approve European-style gas (which is about four to six octane higher than U.S. blends) anytime soon. Grundler said that the EPA has a mandate to keep the status quo for several years.

“After 2025, we should talk about what the future fuels should look like and what is the optimum mix of vehicle and fuel technologies,” Grundler told AN. He added, “There are some provisos. For us to intervene and set fuel standards, we need to show that there is an air quality benefit or that, absent regulations, that it is somehow inhibiting the after-treatment or other parts of the vehicle. And that the benefits outweigh the costs.”

Engine displacements are dropping as automakers seek efficiency-minded power gains through turbocharging, direct injection and ever-higher compression.High-tech engines generally like hi-test gas.

Dan Nicholson, General Motors’ vice president of global propulsion systems, claims that higher octane fuel could boost gas mileage by five percent, but there’s a catch. It’s costs more, and most customers would rather avoid it. However, there’s reason to believe that greater production of hi-test fuel, backed by an EPA mandate, would lower prices.

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  • Kowalski Kowalski on Aug 29, 2016

    The "plan to turn us into yuropeons" is a simple matter of cause and effect. Worldwide oil demand has been increasing for generations. Supply & demand applies to oil just like anything else. (We only "discover more oil" when we can't find any more for the old price. The "recent finds" are mostly locations that surveyors spotted decades ago but we never previously drilled because it had higher costs.) The USA faces a long-term multiple choice question: #1, higher fuel prices. #2, higher CAFE regs. #3, find another earth with additional oil resources. We haven't been able to do #3. We scream bloody murder & vote people out of office at the suggestion of #1. Guess which option that leaves? CAFE regs are a method of rationing gasoline without raising prices. Like it or not this is the mainstream public's wishes. Go ask 10 random people if we should have higher gas prices or more fuel-efficient vehicles. You will get the same answer 10 times.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 29, 2016

    I understand the purpose of the turbos but the amount of fuel savings of a smaller turbo 4 versus a larger non turbo 4 is very little and every time the turbo kicks in then the savings is lost. I agree that it is a cushion to put people in smaller lighter vehicles. After that there is not a whole lot more that can be done to the internal combustion engine to get any significant fuel savings. The only thing after that is to go to another source of power for vehicles. Probably not a whole lot any of us can do about Government Regulations on vehicles but I prefer non turbos for longevity.

  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
  • Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”