WASHINGTON – The U.S. auto industry has started a concentrated effort to replace 87 octane regular with 95 RON octane gasoline, the same grade as Europe’s regular fuel, Automotive News reports. Last Friday, General Motors testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee about making the change, citing that it would be an affordable way to increase fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co. and GM, along with the United States Council for Automotive Research, are pushing for 95 octane to become the nation’s only grade of fuel. Currently, there are three levels of fuel: 87 octane for regular, 88 to 90 for midgrade and 91 to 94 for premium.
“This will have customer value if it is done correctly. Don't think of the premium fuel that is available today,” said Dan Nicholson, vice president of global propulsion systems for GM, during the recent SAE International WCX World Congress Experience. “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%” cost.
Technologies like the direct-injected engines, stop/start systems and lightweight vehicle frames have accelerated fuel economy in recent years. But having a higher octane fuel, while contributing to fuel economy, also has to be affordable for drivers. “That's been something that has been important to us. How do we do this without having a big impact on the customer?,” said David Filipe, vice president of powertrain engineering for Ford. “We don't want to put the burden onto the customer.” Filipe capped the amount drivers should pay for 95 octane as no more than a nickel per gallon higher than regular.
NACS counsel also testified at this hearing, covered earlier this week in the NACS Daily.