By on April 17, 2018

The automotive industry wants to make 95 octane gasoline the new normal for the United States and it has taken its case to Washington. On Friday, Dan Nicholson, General Motors’ vice president of global propulsion systems, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee that switching to 95 octane would align the U.S. with Europe and is one of the most affordable ways to boost fuel economy and lower greenhouse emissions.

Affordable for automakers, that is. Because there is no reason to think your local gas station will suddenly do you a solid and price 95 octane lower just because 87 is gone. 

Nicholson maintains that 95 octane would cost consumers far less in the long run, however. Automakers could implement higher compression ratios on new models, which sounds great and offers the potential for more-efficient engines, but what about all of those old models rocking lower compression rates? Surely those customers are getting burned.

“This will have customer value if it is done correctly. Don’t think of the premium fuel that is available today,” Nicholson said at the SAE International WCX World Congress Experience in Detroit one day before his meeting with the House subcommittee. “If it is done in the right framework, it could have a lot of value for customers at a low rate if we pick the right octane level. If you go too high, it’ll get expensive. But if you pick the right one, it’ll actually work for customers. They can get around 3 percent fuel-economy improvement for less than 3 percent [cost].”

That sounds plausible on future automobiles but, again, it doesn’t speak to the people driving around in vehicles that don’t need 95 RON. The average car owner is keeping their vehicle longer than ever and being suddenly forced to buy more expensive gas sounds like a tough sell.

“Fuels and engines have always been a system. That’s how you have to think about it. I think America deserves as good a gasoline as Europe,” Nicholson continued.

So 87 octane isn’t good enough for America? Well, Dan, there are millions of drivers with compression ratios below 10:1 that would disagree. We understand that improving engine efficiency is costly for automakers, but nobody wants to eat that cost against their will. Tack it onto those new engines, which people will have to put premium gas into anyway. But don’t make Joe Six-Pack dump premium gas into his 2007 Chevrolet Silverado.

According to Automotive News, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, and Ford Motor Co., are working with the United States Council for Automotive Research to ditch all grades of gas that aren’t 95. In theory, minimizing options should also help to mitigate cost from the refineries.

David Filipe, vice president of Ford’s powertrain engineering, joined Nicholson to say 95 octane fuel must become more affordable for this strategy to work. “That’s been something that has been important to us. How do we do this without having a big impact on the customer?” he said. “We don’t want to put the burden onto the customer.”

Filipe explained the cost must not add more than 5 cents per gallon vs 87 octane. Presently, premium gas averages about 50 cents more per gallon and there is no way to ensure refiners can get that price down to sufficient levels until they’ve started producing it at higher volumes.

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127 Comments on “Premium is the New Regular: Automakers Want to Kill 87 Octane...”


  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    “switching to 95 octane would align the U.S. with Europe”
    Is yurop going to like 110 their rating or does he just not understand different ratings systems?

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      +1

      This is a very misleading article. 95 RON is not 95 octane as we know it in the US

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        Bingo! In the U.S. we use RON+MON/2.

        Seems to me RON is the octane measurement that was used here prior to mid 1973 and 95 RON would be tantamount to regular, or maybe a slight increase over 87.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          If they go to one grade only, they should switch to 110/115 AVGAS for everyone.

          That packs a lot of energy and works at all altitudes from sea-level up to 20K feet.

          • 0 avatar
            DevilsRotary86

            Since 115 AVGAS is leaded, that ain’t going to happen. One of the unleaded avgas varieties in the 100 octane range would be a better fit.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            100LL is the only common flavor of aviation fuel in use, other than JET-A.

            100LL has been on the way out for decades, because the LL stands for “low lead”. Meaning it’s still leaded.

            The production of the additive required for lead has been banned for decades — so, when we run out, that’s it.

            Alternative fuel blends have been created, as have new engine designs (including turbodiesels which run on JET-A), but general aviation is notoriously conservstive (we’re still flying airplanes from the 1960s with the engine technology to match) and cash strapped (insurance/liability makes everything cost 10x what it should), so the adoption of new fuel and engine technology has been glacially slow at best.

            I love aviation, but any industry so conservative that EFI is a $20k bolt-on kit has big problems. I’m beginning to think our best hope for affordable general aviation is the electric airplane.

            I wouldn’t use aviation as an example for the automotive industry…

        • 0 avatar
          Pierre

          Europe runs on slightly higher octane than US. 95 RON equals to 91 octanes in the US. I’m pretty sure most of the US drivers run their cars on 87. I always pump 93 US which is 98 RON, just because I drive a turbocharged European car and that’s what the manufacturer recommends. I don’t mind the price difference, plus I get more powerrr :) I guess one way to implement that would be to lower the taxes on higher octane gas to mitigate the price increase and people will slowly start using higher octane while slowly phase out 87 . win win

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Yes, and the Research number was always higher than the Motor number.

    • 0 avatar
      volvo driver

      Matt Posky needs to edumacate himself about octane. The manufacturers are asking for 95 RON, equal to 91 (RON+MON)/2, the US rating system. This indeed would align our octane with Europe as well as the rest of the civilized world and would increase fuel economy. Because let’s face it, even if your owners manual says “premium fuel only” you’re going to run 87 in that bitch anyway the moment the warranty runs out. And then youre going to wonder why the engine died before 100k miles.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    CAFE 2025, the gift that keeps on giving.

    http://www.hotrod.com/articles/automakers-to-united-states-government-high-octane-gasoline-or-give-usmissed-cafe-goals/

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    How about we just mandate TOP TIER GASOLINE? With DI, turbos and stratospheric compression ratios I’d be happier about top tier everywhere instead of forced high octane.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      ‘Top Tier’ just indicates a higher-than-government-mandated level of detergents and other additives to, mostly, keep injectors from clogging and intake valve backsides and intake manifolds from gunking up (in non-DI engines). It has no bearing whatsoever on detonation resistance; i.e. octane rating.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Tier_Detergent_Gasoline

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I know what Top Tier is, and it’s not always easy to find. Especially in rural areas. But given that even our beloved pickups are DI and turbo it would be nicer to see that government mandated than higher octane.

        A few of the independent consumer publications have shown that Top Tier gas can stave off some of the carbon issues related to the new engines and even clean the valves of older engines.

        • 0 avatar
          xtoyota

          I live in rural Wisconsin and have no problem finding TOP TIER gas

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            Agreed, xtoyota. This may be a regional thing, but in most places I drive it’s harder to find fuel that’s *not* top tier.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Tier_Detergent_Gasoline#Availability

        • 0 avatar
          saturnotaku

          My in-laws live in rural Illinois, and all but two incorporated towns that I know of in a 30-mile radius have at least one station that sells Top Tier gas.

        • 0 avatar
          jonsey

          How does high detergent gasoline clean out carbon deposits in the intake tract and off the intake valves when there is no gas in the intake tract on a DI car?

        • 0 avatar
          Johnster

          I have relatives in rural Wyoming and Top Tier can be difficult to find there, moreover, it’s almost always 5 to 10 cents a gallon more expensive than dirty gas.

        • 0 avatar
          Thomas Kent

          CENEX sells Top Tier gas: http://www.cspdailynews.com/fuels-news-prices-analysis/fuels-news/articles/chs-upgrades-all-cenex-gasoline-top-tier

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I’d like both higher octane and Top Tier detergent packages.

    • 0 avatar
      volvo driver

      Top tier gasoline is marketing bull sh!t.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I remember my grandpa ran a double headgasket on his ’87 Izh Kombi so it would run on cheap MON-80 octane swill, which even by the early 2000s was getting harder to find. That poor old thing would diesel forever after getting shut off.

    If production shifted to prioritize high octane and prices were minimally effected then I guess I don’t have too strong of an opinion. But let’s start by removing ethanol from our fuel for starters, if higher fuel economy is the name of the game.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      But, but – think of the poor farmers! They’d need to convert their fields around me from growing ethanol back to growing corn and some might even return to regularly rotating the planting of different crops annually. Oh, the humanity! The sales of Navigators and Escalades in my poor, poor county will plummet!

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        The whole ethanol in fuel thing is a political hot potato, given the timing of Iowa’s caucus. No one has the balls to rock the boat and lose momentum early in the primary campaign.

      • 0 avatar
        dima

        I would not worry too much of the farmers. with a seasons shift and unpredictable weather patterns, we will be lucky if they can grow enough to satisfy food requirements. More money would be made by selling it for the food and not for ethanol, unless it is for the internal consumption during cold winter nights.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        Yes, that crop should be used for making more corn syrup. We’re not all fat enough to need something as tall and heavy as an SUV to bumble about in.

      • 0 avatar
        DedBull

        Corn isn’t the ethanol fueled cash cow it was just a few years ago. corn had floated between $2-3 a bushel from the 70’s up till 2006. Then a spike pushed corn to $6-7 a bushel up until the 2014 harvest. Since then, it has re-balanced in the $3.50 range

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      Did you read the proposal? the proposal is to INCREASE ETHANOL to get the higher octane rating…

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      How about instead of mixing ethanol in the fuel, you put it in a supplementary small tank to be injected at high-load conditions to resist detonation when the octane level of your fuel is insufficient? We’d get more benefit and use a fraction as much of it.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    Premium is consistently $.70 higher than regular in Northern Delaware.

    Does anyone know what the refining cost difference between 87 and 95 octane and how do they raise the octane?

    I seem to remember in the bad old days they would add more TEL tetraethyl lead anti knock compound. In the same vein, we’ve been through a similar transition in the 70’s with the phaseout of lead.

    I’d welcome the change. I would hope it would eliminate or at least reduce carbon build up on the intake valves of direct injected turbocharged engines. I’d also love to see them get rid of the requirement for alcohol in gas. An independent refiner in Philly recently declared bankruptcy citing the need to buy credits in the market place because they could not mix ethanol into the gasoline at their refinery due to logistic issues.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      US uses AKI Octane calculations. AKI = (RON+MON)/2

      RON 95 corresponds to about 91 or 92 AKI, depending on the exact properties of the gasoline. Shell V Power Nitro (93 AKI) has a rating of 99 RON.

      We’re not talking about a new fuels frontier. We’re talking about eliminating regular unleaded fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      re: ” I would hope it would eliminate or at least reduce carbon build up on the intake valves of direct injected turbocharged engines.”

      Higher octane would not have any effect on carbon buildup. The buildup occurs because, in a DI engine, the wonderful additives–Techron, etc.–can’t do their job of cleaning intake manifolds and the backsides of the intake valves.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        This depends on context.

        Running lower-than-necessary octane levels leads to preignition, which does build up carbon.

        Some Turbo DI motors appear to specify “regular” fuel is OK, but still have issues with preignition, therefore adding carbon buildup.

        Therefore in practice, higher octane WOULD have an effect on carbon buildup, but if owners of those cars would just use mid grade instead of low grade, they wouldn’t have any preignition, and then they wouldn’t have carbon build up issues beyond your other point, which is the inability of additives to clean manifolds.

        Not trying to get over technical, but your both kinda right.

  • avatar
    wintermutt

    In New Zealand a few months ago all the pumps had 95 octane available. Saw quite a few classic American muscle cars BTW.

  • avatar
    TW5

    US uses AKI Octane ratings. 95 RON isn’t that big of a deal. Most mid-grade 91 octane are probably 95 RON. Still, it’s always nice when corporations get together and decide to start banning things for “the good of the customer”.

    Anyway, if they are in the mood to write a bunch of fuel regulations, why don’t they get the ethanol out of our gasoline and replace it with bio-gasoline? If people want fuel to be more expensive and they want to reduce carbon emissions that’s a two-for-one.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Hahahaha!

    OK, liberals, you get your wish – more expensive, cleaner-burning fuel!

    Seriously, this would be more palatable if fuel taxes were eliminated, and taxed annually based upon:

    Tax = GVWR x annual miles driven x tax rate

    Then everybody would pair their ‘fair share’, as the Dems like to put it, including trucks, EVs, and every other vehicle on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      It would be better to tax annual miles driven times some sort of tax rate formula that is based upon EPA mpg ratings.

      For instance, Prius pay $.01 per mile. Odometer readings at inspection shows 12,000 miles driven. Therefore, registration tax is $120. Silverado gets about 1/3 the gas mileage so it pays $.03 per mile over 12,000 miles. Therefore, registration tax is $360.

      Discouraging vehicle miles traveled is somewhat dubious, but mpg based registration fees are better than taxing GVWR especially since that has little to do with curb weight.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        All sorts of taxing schemes have been tried over the decades past and what is in place currently seems to fit the general driving populace best.

        Annual miles driven times some sort of tax rate formula doesn’t work for people who have 3, 4, 5 or more cars at their disposal. If total annual miles driven of let’s say 15K is divided over let’s say 5 cars then registration tax would be incredibly low for each vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @highdesertcat:

          Yes, the tax per car would be low, but you’d still be paying for all 15k miles.

          Rising CAFE standards mean that fuel taxes can never be high enough to pay for road infrastructure.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            To me, a per-mile rate only makes sense, since the gas tax is essentially that, a penny per mile, based on a former average highway mileage of 20mpg or less. But at a total of $150 for 15,000 miles, that’s hardly an onerous tax charged when you renew (or trade) your vehicles. (Assuming, that is, they approximate what the old gas tax worked out at.)

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @TW5:

        Fuel taxes are used to pay for road infrastructure, which has absolutely no relationship to mpg. Road wear and tear is related to vehicle weight and miles driven.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Wear goes up superlineraly (very much so) with weight.

          Also with power and tire grippiness.

          Infrastructure costs, including both wear on existing, as well as how much of it is required to support peak loads, also increases quite markedly with vehicle height and width, as well as (albeit perhaps less so) length. And even with beltline height and window tint. For any given distance of forward visibility per speed.

          So you really ought to base tax on at least weight, power, miles driven, height, width and length. Or perhaps just weight, power and degree of visibility obstruction to the driver of a “standard” car like a 2010 Camry driven by a standard proportioned 5’6″ tall driver…..

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @TW5: “For instance, Prius pay $.01 per mile. Odometer readings at inspection shows 12,000 miles driven. Therefore, registration tax is $120. Silverado gets about 1/3 the gas mileage so it pays $.03 per mile over 12,000 miles. Therefore, registration tax is $360.”

        I would disagree with a complicated formula like that. A flat 1¢ per mile for any non-commercial vehicle would be fair across the board, simplifying the taxing process while essentially no more painful than the current gas tax. Commercial vehicles already have an additional tax based more on their GVWR/GCWR to balance the additional wear caused by the extreme weights carried and towed. If we take state fuel taxes into account, the total might add up to 3¢ per mile for some states.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      *complains about liberals*
      *proposes a new, invasive tax as “fair”*

      Good job and congrats

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      If we’re going to talk about road usage and weight with regard to infrastructure, we need to address the elephant in the room: Commercial trucking.

      Their tax rates per vehicle are lower (plus less fuel tax) than automobiles. It helps to have a lobby. If we were to increase fuel tax a small amount on road use diesel, it would help immensely. However, everyone’s idea of a small amount of tax is different and far too much.

      If I were king, this would be first order of business. Then, I would get around to changing the tax for automobile fuel.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I’ll grant that commercial trucking (meaning OTR trucking) has its discounts when it comes to road taxes… but not necessarily in fuel taxes unless it’s on a state-by-state basis. I’ll admit I don’t know the exact costs but I do know that despite those ‘discounts’, commercial trucking still pays far more in infrastructure taxes than any other individual or group simply because of their weight and high mileage.

        So tell us… I’ve recommended what I consider to be a fair use tax in place of direct fuel taxes, being based roughly on fixed rates per mile multiplied by the class of vehicle (class as defined by GVWR/GCWR.) What would you recommend?

      • 0 avatar
        jthorner

        Here in CA diesel fuel is taxed much more heavily per gallon than gasoline is in order to at least partly recognize the wear and tear heavy commercial vehicles put on our roads.

  • avatar
    James Ross

    As I understand it, ethanol has a high octane rating but lower energy content than gasoline. I sure hope no attempt to mandate increased ethanol will ensue from any agreements to standardize “regular” gas at a higher octane level.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      No one is talking about this .In the actual proposal, they said to increase ethanol.

      If you increase ethanol to get the higher octane… since it has lower energy density, are you actually increasing fuel economy and emissions? or is it a wash?

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        When you run E85 the mileage is about 60% that of E0. I don’t know if you can overcome that deficit with even higher compression. Plus, all the older cars can/will have issues with higher E content resulting in lower mileage and possibly fuel system issues.

        I wonder what would happen with premium here as it currently has no ethanol in it so we can use it in the mowers, trimmers and old classic carburated cars.

        Maybe they will have the current 93 E0 and then the 95 octane/E10+ crap for high compression engines.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          Ethanol enhanced fuel combined with higher compression will result in less emissions and higher mileage, although I don’t think it will be the same as gasoline.

          In the US, cars have been able to accept higher amounts of ethanol (up to 30%) in motor fuels for about 30 years now. With the onslaught of electronic fuel injection, that’s been possible for a lot longer than most realize. But, cars that run E85 do have larger fuel lines, and a different engine management system to deal with the volumes of the fuel.

          • 0 avatar
            arach

            and fuel lines/fuel pumps/seals that don’t dry out from ethanol… thats what kills a lot of other cars on e85.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Premium is more expensive mostly because they can charge more for it. If there was only one grade, there would be savings that offset the majority of the increased cost. Possibly all of it.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      Ding ding ding

      If only one grade were offered the price would be very close to current regular.

      • 0 avatar
        Polishdon

        And the Tooth Fairy will bring me a bucket of gold tonight !

        With only one grade of gas, they could charge you WHATEVER they wanted to and you would have NO choice but to buy it. They could artificially raise it to $4+ due to “changeover costs” and guess what…. you pay it or walk.

        My 2016 car can run on E85, Regular or Plus. I want that choice !

        • 0 avatar
          dantes_inferno

          >My 2016 car can run on E85, Regular or Plus. I want that choice !

          E85 gives you the choice of poor fuel economy + spending more on fuel because of its low energy density compared to petrol.

          But don’t let that tidbit of information get in the way of your choice.

          • 0 avatar
            Polishdon

            I did not say I ran my car on E85, just that it can.. As a matter of fact, I never have.

            BUT…..

            To force me to run premium fuel in my car when it does not require or benefit from using it AND paying more for it, then no.

            My car runs fine on 87 octane, gets me 25-27 MPG mixed and 30-35 mpg highway. I’ve tried plus and the mileage barely improves.

            I see why the auto companies want it, makes perfect sense (cleaner cars, better performance, etc). The Gas companies want it because it simplifies production and storage.

            But think a second. You have a gas station with several tanks. You have gas pumps with several options. Do you think changing that will be simple or free?

          • 0 avatar
            arach

            In Ohio, E85 has been getting in the mod 1.XXs. Regular gas is $3.65. I started switching over to E85 because even with the lower energy density, when its less than half the price, its a bargain!

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “In Ohio, E85 has been getting in the mod 1.XXs. Regular gas is $3.65. I started switching over to E85 because even with the lower energy density, when its less than half the price, its a bargain!”

            —- I find “less than half the price” ($1.82) unlikely. In fact, the lowest price I can find for Regular is $2.29 in Ohio, according to GasBuddy dot com. And nowhere in the state can I find a price of $3.65 for Regular.

          • 0 avatar
            arach

            @Vulpine.

            You can’t today. therefore I’ve got gas today… but fuel prices have been fairly erratic lately. 3.62 is the highest I’ve seen in the last year on gas, and 1.66 is the cheapest I’ve found e85, although according to E85prices.com, the state average on e85 was down to 1.60 in November!

            I’ve seen the crazy variances at 8350 Cincinnati Dayton Rd, West Chester Township, OH 45069. This is where I bought my E85.

            Gas is 3.27 today at this gas station. E85 prices aren’t posted on gasbuddy.com, but according to e85 prices.com, it is 1.81 for e85 at 120 W Maple Street, hartville OH. The price for Speedway isn’t listed.

            According to E85prices.com, in november 2017, the AVERAGE spread in the state of Ohio was 1.60 for E85 and $2.59 for E10. that is a 62% price increase for E10 Retular which covers the 50-60% fuel efficiency loss, and that is a STATE AVERAGE, not even cherry picking specific use cases.

            However, thats also 87 octane. Take into consideration higher octane needs. If your car needs premium, then factor in an 83 cent increase (according to GasBuddy.com).

            So 1.60 for E85, which is 100-105 octane vs. Premium for 3.42 (once again JUST USING AVERAGES), then E85 was less than half the price of Premium for the entire state of Ohio in November. Yes, that means E10 Premium would be 114% more expensive than E85, and given that the efficiency is only 50-60% lower, E85 makes sense.

            Now that I can prove that was the case in November, its reasonable to believe my premise that I pulled into the gas station for E85 gas that was half the price of E10 gas. When these situations happen- since they don’t always fluctuate in sync- it can make sense to buy E85.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            GasBuddy doesn’t care whether it’s E10, E85 or just plain, old, gasoline. If it’s sold as a motor fuel under the name of Regular, Mid-grade or Premium, they list it. Why? Because it’s the people who post… people with smartphones and tablets and computers who post the gas prices they see every day. If it were being sold today for $1.81, GasBuddy would have shown it. The station selling at that price would have probably been swarmed, too.

            And no, just because you think you’ve proven your point for November doesn’t mean you’ve proven it for today; prices have jumped roughly 25% between then and today. How about taking some photos and linking them for us?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Here. I’ve done it for you. The price spread is actually only 20%-25% with the average price of E85 in Ohio roughly $2.06 per gallon and E-10 at $2.55 as of yesterday. That is NOT ‘half the price’, which would be a spread of up to 50%.

            https://e85prices.com/ohio.html

            Now, personally I’m not going to sacrifice fuel economy that severely that I’m willing to pay more to travel the same distance. I’ve seen what E85 does to fuel mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          White Shadow

          What? LOL

          There would still be competition between gas stations selling a single grade of fuel. Your claim makes no sense.

          • 0 avatar
            arach

            @Vulpine- I never said I’m running e85 today. When e85 came out, it was always only like 30 cents cheaper than E10. It never made sense to use it. I was outspoken about how stupid e85 was and that I’d never use it.

            then a couple years later, there are TIMES where the price disparity has been more than 60%. Not today. Not this month. It changed my opinion of e85, and when I see the disparity more than 50/60%, I’ll use it. Its not like this every day, but I never said it was. I said both fluctuate and I was surprised they don’t always fluctuate together (IE gas might spike for the day and e85 doesn’t).

            Most my cars can’t run on e85 anyway, but some of our fleet trucks do.

            Confused about the gasbuddy stuff. It has regular, mid grade, and premium. E85 is 100 octane, so that would be “premium”, and its definitely under 3 dollars everywhere that sells it… but I don’t see it on gasbuddy anywyere, and I don’t see anyone putting $2.06 in the premium category either…

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            The argument was clearly placed in the present; if you had explained your statement properly the first time, there would be no argument.

            That being said, I can certainly understand people being willing to travel more than a few miles to save money on that gas. When prices were cheaper (in the sub-$1/gal range) I was willing to travel 20 miles to save 10¢ per gallon. Today that 30¢ difference would be tempting–until you realize you’re also losing 10% or more in fuel economy (not the mere 3% claimed in the Senate) with such a high Ethanol percentage. The savings in price is almost exactly balanced by the loss in economy, meaning no matter which you use, you’re spending just about the same amount to travel the same distance. This is one reason why diesel fuel prices jumped from less than Regular to higher than Premium. No matter which grade you buy, the cost per mile is almost exactly equal. The difference tends to be in how well the engine performs for that price.

            And no, E85 is not the same as 100 Octane. Or rather, it doesn’t offer the performance of 100 Octane. It may be cleaner and it may make the engine run better, but it has notably lower specific energy which means you have to use more to get the equivalent performance–and there goes your fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    This can all be blamed on CAFE being about the worst way possible to try and increase fuel economy as it never directly effects the consumer.

    The automakers must engineer products that people want to buy based on part on the relatively affordable price of gas and minimal real world financial benefit of fuel economy. To make the cars people want to buy meet the mandated fuel economy targets, automakers implement small capacity/high compression engines. Which people don’t want because then it makes the gas more expensive with no real value added to them.

    In spite of the lobbying efforts of automakers for this, I can see it being a tough sell to politicians in D.C. These are the same people that came up with CAFE in the first place in lieu of using a gas tax. A gas tax would directly effect people’s purchasing and driving habits to influence concern for better fuel economy and the related environmental impacts.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      don’t think that would be a problem for the career pols who have no problem with the plebs being forced into buying limited range EVs that cannot be quickly refueled.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Just another way to fleece the proles, nothing more or less.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        And how, 28-cars, would you fairly tax all POVs (Personally Operated Vehicles) in the country for infrastructure maintenance?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          No such thing as a “fair tax” this is just doublespeak. There is more than enough fiat money in existence to pay for everything and then some. But its not for you prole, its for trillions in international wars which have nothing to do with you, trillions in welfare to create a dependent underclass to squeeze you, trillions in drug smuggling to poison you, trillions in black bag projects which will never benefit you. Your “taxes” are simply collateral against new bonds, and when the time is up those in the know will abscond and the bonds will be worthless.

          “At the same time, the US spent a lot of money on foreign conflicts. “In the past 30 years, America had 13 wars spending $14.2 trillion … no matter how good your strategy is you’re supposed to spend money on your own people,” Ma said. “The money goes to Wall Street. Then what happened? Year 2008. The financial crisis wiped out $19.2 trillion in US income … What if the money was spent on the Midwest of the United States, developing industry there?””

          JACK MA.

          Reject fake news.
          Reject Twatter and FrackBook.
          Reject these horrible “phones”.
          Reject all media.
          Reject every social idea after 1985.

          All lies.

          You have been lied to your whole life. When someone tells a lie, call them liars. Tell them they are wrong about everything and they too have been lied to their whole life. Mock their blind allegiance for they make their own choices to burn. Just used and abused proles all while there is laughter in the shadows.

          Do not go gentle into that good night,
          Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
          Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

          Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
          Because their words had forked no lightning they
          Do not go gentle into that good night.

          Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
          Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
          Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

          Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
          And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
          Do not go gentle into that good night.

          Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
          Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
          Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

          And you, my father, there on the sad height,
          Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
          Do not go gentle into that good night.
          Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

          End the Fed.
          Behead its members.

  • avatar
    azmtns

    By the United States, does Mr. Nicholson also mean Canada, Mexico and other countries further south?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Is it possible that the higher octane ratings might be achieved by adding more ethanol to gasoline? If that happened then many older vehicles could not run on it. I doubt the Government would eliminate the requirement for ethanol from gasoline especially with all the farmers growing corn. I could see where the politicians in the farm states would support this if the amount of ethanol required in gasoline is increased.

  • avatar
    fazalmajid

    It’s not just Europe, Canadians also have higher-octane gasoline than the ethanol-adulterated crap that passes for fuel int he US.

  • avatar
    gasser

    This won’t work out well at all. In California, our “special” smog fighting gas costs more to refine. We pay about $3.69/gal for regular with super at $4.09 (my local station, YMMV). Do you really think it costs about $1.20/gallon more to refine our “special” blend? If you do, wait until you see what you are charged for super premium 95.
    P.S. I have a Hyundai which runs fine on regular 87 and really don’t want to pay any more than the current $3.69/gallon.That’s quite enough, thanks.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Yup. More profit for the oil companies and an even quicker abandonment over to hybrids and plug-ins. Keep jacking the gasoline prices up, boys; you’re just helping the BEV market with every penny you raise it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am just as happy with the 87 Octane but I can see the handwriting on the wall. The automakers will get this passed but Big Agriculture will get something in return. The ethanol content will be raised in gasoline raising the corn production which in turn increases Monsanto’s profits increasing demand for Roundup and hybrid corn seeds. I guarantee you that there will be more ethanol in gasoline and not less. I am not a fan of ethanol but this will happen. Politicians in the grain belt states have to take care of the farmers and also the big corporations like Monsanto who contribute to their campaigns. This will also help the car makers as well because many of the older cars and trucks will not be able to run on fuel with higher ethanol. I might just keep my older vehicles until I can no longer run them on the fuel available. Also trying to find 15 inch tires for trucks is getting harder since many of the manufacturers have discontinued these tires. Most of the newer vehicles have tall tires with less sidewall. I am not going to fret over it because there is little I can do about it. Much bigger things to worry about.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      >Politicians in the grain belt states have to take care of the farmers and also the big corporations like Monsanto who contribute to their campaigns.

      At this point, Monsanto should call themselves a fuel company like Exxon/Mobil.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      They can’t just increase the ethanol level to increase octane, too many legacy engines that aren’t designed for levels greater than E10, and not just car engines. They can add higher blends for those who are mathematically challenged, but no oil company will quit making E10, and no gas stations will quit carrying it.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Meh. I have noticed over the years that my oldest cars designed to run on 87 have to upgrade to 89 to avoid knock as they age anyway. And all the new turbo engines, ultra high compression Skyactivs, etc. no doubt prefer more octane to less. Mandating this new octane level (which works out to your regular-Joe 91 or 92 at the pump) would keep the oldest and newest cars running trouble-free, but presumably at some added expense to folks with cars somewhere in the middle.

    Automakers *could* use mandatory high-octane as a free 3% boost to their CAFE ratings going forward, sure. Or maybe they could roll out more innovative cars instead. I recently bought a 2018 Chevy Volt, and it’s a delight: ultra-responsive, whisper-quiet, and really easy on gas (as in, uses zero gas unless you’re on a road trip). It makes you wonder “Why isn’t every car built like this?” And then you remember “oh yeah, because it essentially results in a Chevy Cruze that sells for the price of a BMW 320.” But is it possible that high volume production would bring those costs down, as it brought down the costs of cell phones and computers? Dunno.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @hotpotato: “it’s a delight: ultra-responsive, whisper-quiet,”

      Which is probably what is really driving about 95% of the electrification market. Everyone likes to paint us as eco-weenies or as trying to save money. The reality is that most of us are into these cars for the driving experience.

  • avatar
    theBrandler

    Consumer reports did a very interesting test where they took an Audi, a Mustang GT, a Silverado, and I think the last one was a Civic. They first ran them on their manufacturer recommended grade which for all was either mid grade or premium. The Audi was the only one to “require” premium. They recorded the MPGs and dynoed them on their recommended fuel type.

    Then ran them all on regular, and tested again. For most, MPGs were within the margin of error identical, and power loss was 0-1%. Interestingly the Audi was the exception, it got BETTER MPGs on REGULAR with no power loss!

    So I call total BS on this. They don’t need premium fuel, instead what should be done is get rid of the premium fuel, which should drive the cost of regular even lower as then we’ll have just one fuel type to deal with.

    This honestly is the first time I can see a serious claim of conspiracy between the auto manufacturers and big oil, especially when this is coming on crux of the electric revolution. Why even bother with this now if BEV market share is just going to continue to grow? I don’t think it will happen over night like some EV apologists do, but it’s plainly obvious ICE days are numbered.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I hate to “Defend” one side of the argument, but it takes time for your computer to adjust to knock…. on some cars it takes a VERY long time. So was that audi being run on regular BEFORE the premium? because one tank isn’t enough to change the story. In addition, was it running long enough on regular to adjust the timing?

      On some cars (I think the cadillac CTS is one example), you need to totally reset the computer after using regular gas to get full premium timing, because it takes years to adjust back. Someone can correct me, but on the cadillac forums there’s a lot of discussions around that.

      Preignition causes tremendous load on your engine, and even if you don’t get a change in fuel economy, its taxing your engine significantly, leading to premature engine failure and long term issues such as carbon buildup that is already a huge issue on forced induction motors.

      When your dealing with high-compression motors, preignition is the problem. Higher octane = higher compression without preignition.

      Thats why on our race cars we run 100+ octane, and anyone who increases boost on a forced air motor has to tune it for the fuel octane level.

      I really don’t think there’s even a “debate” about if octane rating “matters”. If your car doesn’t need it, its a waste of money- that seems clear. Some people argue that some forced air motors do NEED it but the manufacturers don’t state so to keep ownership costs down. that is worthy of a debate. If your car does need it, then you should buy it… but its not for better fuel economy, its to prevent pre-ignition. Many cars can adjust the timing, and IF it adjusts timing with regular fuel to prevent pre-ignition, then you will lose power and fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      There is no conspiracy. It’s no secret that increased compresson and reduced knock increases engine efficiency. Higher octane fuel is a major enabler of that.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    I have to say I find it very sloppy that the author talked about 87 octane and 95 octane in the same sentence without specifying that one is RON and the other (RON+MON)/2. It’s almost like he has no idea about the difference between the two.

    As has been pointed out by other posters, MON 95 is approximately equivalent to 91 pump octane that we currently have, and not some kind of new super-fuel. Europe uses MON, and that’s why their pump numbers are higher, not because their fuel has better anti-knock properties.

    TTAC used to hold itself to a higher journalistic standard than this.

  • avatar
    dima

    Technically speaking, switching to the single grade gas would theoretically yield better price at the pump. Think about it, easier for refineries, simplified transportation, storage and distribution. Short term might be bit painful, long term cost savings.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Technically speaking, switching to the single grade gas would theoretically yield better price at the pump. Think about it, easier for refineries, simplified transportation, storage and distribution. Short term might be bit painful, long term cost savings.”

      … And much more profit for the oil companies. (What, you expect them to lower prices to current for Regular?)

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      dima, the problem is that high octane gasoline doesn’t exist in nature as a fraction of the crude oil you can separate out as straight-run gasoline. High octane gasoline is manufactured, requiring additional hardware at the refinery plus energy inputs. Higher octane gasoline requires a larger proportion of relatively expensive manufactured molecules that burn more smoothly.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Crude oil doesn’t contain octane molecules any more? Who knew?

        Perhaps you meant to say that they don’t exist in sufficient quantity to meet demand.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    (going with 95 ron = 91 octane in the US)

    there will never be just one octane.

    because there will always be that certain segment of society with more dollars than sense that will say “regular” premium 91 isn’t good enough:

    “i put premium, premium 95 octane in my 2025 camry and whoooo eeeeee she just runs better and gets better gas mileage!”

    the gas companies will happily charge you the premium for your premium, premium.

  • avatar
    vagvoba

    “We understand that improving engine efficiency is costly for automakers, but *nobody* wants to eat that cost against their will.”

    Saying that ‘nobody wants to do something against their will’ is true by definition.

    What you really meant was that simply ‘nobody wants to eat that cost.’

    However that is wrong, since I personally do want to eat that cost, and I can assure you there are plenty of other people who are also willing to pay more in exchange for cleaner air and less emissions. If that wasn’t true, there would be no hybrid cars sold at all.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      I personally am 100% unwilling to eat that cost and never take “the environment” or “saving the planet” into consideration in any of my purchases. (Hint to leftist control freaks: the planet does not need to be “saved” and if it did, driving electric cars is not going to “save” it.) We reached the point of diminishing returns on emissions at least 20 years ago, and CO2 is not a pollutant regardless of the wailing, gnashing of teeth, and continual lies of the climate cult.

      • 0 avatar
        vagvoba

        That’s another opinion.

        I’m sure there will always be plenty of powerful cars available for you since better fuel economy and lower emissions are not in the way of more power. Just see how today’s cars are more economical and less polluting than ever while they are also more powerful than ever.
        For example the 2.3L Ford EcoBoost engine in the Mustang (starting at $25K) is more powerful than Ferrari V8 engines in the 80s while having way better fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “If that wasn’t true, there would be no hybrid cars sold at all.”

        While a portion of hybrid sales are certainly ideological, a large amount are economical. In use with high on cycle time, fuel becomes the major cost factor. Hybrids use less of it. Taxi companies have latched onto hybrids for that economical reason alone. Hacks would go right back to Crown Vics if they remained a cheaper overall option.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere. We are adding multiple gigatons yearly. The Observable concentration in the atmosphere going up. It is as simple as that. The northern ice cap is shrinking year to year. Can we continue doing this indefinitely?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I guess he meant nobody who understands that the extra cost is due to the additional energy and resources consumed to create it.

      But if they actually could get 3% better fuel economy with less than 3% extra fuel cost and no change in vehicle price or reliability then it’s not a cost anyway; it’s a savings.

      I’d just let the market decide. People are free to choose engines requiring premium fuel, and if everyone decides that it’s worth it for superior performance and fuel economy, then typical octane levels will eventually shift higher on their own.

  • avatar
    Middcore

    So, simply transferring costs to consumers and then no doubt giving all their executives bonuses for hitting their new fuel efficiency targets without actually doing anything.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’d like to see regular go up to at least 91 or 92 (R+M /2). My ’13 Tacoma (4.0 V6) sometimes pings on regular (it’s recommended by Toyota) at low speeds (15-20 mph) under moderate throttle.

    The thing that chaps me is that it used to be that there was typically a ten cent price difference between grades (and no more than 15 cents). Nowadays it’s typically 30 cents. It sounds like retailers trying to make more money off the higher grades, since there’s such a tight margin on regular.

  • avatar
    George B

    Gasoline with higher octane ratings is inherently more expensive that the current US 87 octane regular unleaded. Gasoline with a higher octane rating requires a larger proportion of branching isomers that come apart more slowly than the cheap straight chain hydrocarbons. Those more desirable isomers require additional processes beyond fractional distillation and cracking to boost the octane rating.
    https://www.thoughtco.com/gasoline-and-octane-ratings-overview-602180

  • avatar
    carve

    I’m fine with 95 being available and new cars being optimized for it. The phase in would be tough. Here’s the way to do it: have it be able to retard the timing and boost enough to run on 91, and then have a factory methanol or alcohol injection system so you can get full performance on 91. If you have access to 95 or feather-foot it, the system isn’t needed, but if you don’t have access you still get full performance.

    I’d think 87 wouldn’t be phased out for ages until demand drops.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The 95 RON octane being talked about is equivalent to US AKI 91 already commonly available.

      IMO, no regulation is necessary. The fuel is already available. Automakers need to sell the benefits. The issue is that consumer acceptance of the idea will be difficult to overcome as people apparently have no problem swallowing huge car payments but only want to put the cheapest gas in their vehicles.

      The best case is a gradual phase-out of 87 similar to lower octanes that used to be available. However, with the millions of vehicles that have that as their minimum requirement still on the road for many years to come, it will take a long time.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    If 91 is the new “regular” and they keep 93 as “premium”, what would happen to 93 sales? Because if there is a 20-30 cent per gallon spread in price, a lot of people are just going to go with 91 figuring it’s close enough. Or they’ll alternate half-tank refills of 91 and 93 to effectively run at 92.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    I’m already using 93 octane(plus lead additive every other tankful)for my ’68 Cougar. I don’t know that I need 95 octane, as my car works well at 4800 ft altitude(weekdays) and 6200 ft altitude(weekends), and refineries are already engineered for 93 octane.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I just wanna know why the hell 87 octane Wawa p!ss is $2.93 a gallon right now…my Dakota’s killing me with its 10-12mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Oil prices are rising again, so gas prices are following.

      Just a note: E85 isn’t always going to stay down where it is; if we look at another post in this thread, we can already see that its prices have risen 30¢ and more, just like gasoline–and you don’t get nearly the same fuel mileage you’re getting with real gasoline. This belief that going 95 Octane using Ethanol will save you money both ignores the lower fuel mileage AND ignores the fact that corn prices will jump to compensate, meaning food prices, too, will leap disproportionally.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Hey auto makers. Go ahead and make your cars that require higher octane. Tell you buyers to use that premium gas. The rest of us can use appropriate octanes for our vehicles. That has been going on since I became car aware in the ’60s.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t think that raising the octane is a conspiracy as much as turbo charging more small engines to meet the targeted mpg standards while making these engines run decently. I do think when it comes to an agreement on these higher octane standards that you will see Big Agra, Big Oil, and the farm lobby want their piece of the pie. My only problem is if this happens then there should be enough time for those of us with older vehicles to transition to newer vehicles or to affordably adapt our older vehicles to this fuel. If on the other hand the content of the ethanol is not increased then at least my vehicles will run on it. I doubt most of us will have a choice in this matter and it will be more likely an agreement between the bureaucrats and industry.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I’m with the car companies on this one. Having the same fuel standards as Europe make complete sense …. so the US probably is incapable of doing it.

  • avatar

    “if it is done correctly” raise your hand if you think it’ll be done correctly.

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