Cleaner, better gas is coming, but you’ll pay more for it

Fuel pumps

Gas prices are displayed on a pump at a gas station in New Orleans on Monday, April 6, 2015. Automakers and oil producers are planning higher octane fuel with capable engines to boost performance and reduce emissions. (Gerald Herbert / AP)

Automakers and oil companies are quietly developing a new generation of fuels and engines to run more efficiently on them, generating more power from less gasoline to reduce emissions and boost fuel economy.

But industry executives are reluctant to talk publicly about their research.

Why so quiet?

Because no company wants to be the poster child for higher fuel prices, even if the additional cost is offset by lower fuel consumption and better performance.

Higher octane fuel costs more because the fuel components that boost octane are generally more expensive to produce.

Development work on super-premium gasoline grades and engines to take advantage of them is going on behind the scenes while automakers and oil companies around the world ponder how to sell the public on the idea.

“Ten cents a gallon more is probably palatable. A quarter risks customer acceptance,” said an industry executive who requested anonymity because his company’s plans are secret.

In Europe, where higher-octane gasoline is common, running super-premium fuel with about 98 octane increased fuel economy 10% compared with gasoline at U.S.-premium levels of 92-94.

“Most automakers are looking at higher compression to increase efficiency. Raising octane allows that with minimal other changes to the engine,” said Mark Christie, vice president for engine engineering at the U.S. arm of engineering consultant Ricardo. It’s simpler and less expensive than adding new technologies, and a building block to make those technologies even more effective.

It’s unclear how much this will increase fuel prices, because oil companies aren’t talking. Automakers and oil companies are locked in a seesaw relationship that dates to the dawn of both industries. Each needs the other’s product to sell their own, but each feels the other gets off light when it comes to investment and regulation.

 

Source/More: Chicago Tribune

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