Is using premium fuel beneficial?
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Some of the benefits that premium fuel claims to offer is that it can improve your car ’s performance and help protect your engine, in addition to cutting fuel consumption.
In return, these ‘superior’ fuels end up costing users more at the pump. The question remains however: is the extra cost worth it?
This guide will help you understand whether using premium fuel can be beneficial. But first, the basics.
What is premium fuel?
You’ll find premium fuels at most fuel stations, including Shell, BP, Esso and even some supermarket fuel forecourts, such as Tesco. They’re more expensive and claim to offer a range of additional benefits over regular options, including improved fuel economy and overall performance.
Vehicles with high-performance engines, such as hot hatchbacks, will benefit from premium fuel as it enables the vehicle to extract more potential out of performance as well as potentially benefitting fuel economy.
Some common premium fuel products include:
- Shell V Power
- BP Ultimate
- Esso Synergy Supreme+
- Tesco Momentum 99 (petrol only)
Premium petrol can potentially improve the performance of your car. At a molecular level, premium petrol is likely to contain more carbon to carbon bonds, which provide more power than the carbon to hydrogen bonds that dominate in standard fuel. This change in composition, if present, has the potential to boost the speed and performance of just about any car.
Whether you will need premium petrol will depend on your car’s octane rating. Every car will run at an optimum octane level. If you use a petrol with a lower octane rating than your vehicle should run on, you’re likely to encounter problems through pre-ignition.
So, for powerful cars that ignite at a relatively high-octane level, the higher-octane premium petrol is an ideal match. It’s important to note that if your car runs at a lower octane rating than the premium petrol you use, you won’t experience any benefit from the extra octane. It’ll continue to ignite at the same level, so the extra octane won’t go to use.
Petrol types and their (RON)* ratings:
– Standard Unleaded (95 RON)
– Super Unleaded (97+ RON)
*RON is limited to at least 95 by BS EN 228 standards
The science bit: The octane rating measures how difficult a fuel will be to ignite, as it will require the engine to compress it more the higher the rating. However, when the fuel is compressed more, it will produce more power from less fuel. As high-performance engines need more power, they need a higher octane fuel to run.
Sometimes, regular unleaded can be named premium unleaded and premium products named super or ultimate. To make sure, check the RON number. 95 is standard; anything higher is premium. Actual premium petrols can also contain different detergents and lubrication additives to other petrol products to keep fuel systems running efficiently.
Diesel engines don't need a spark plug to ignite fuel, instead, the air is compressed between 14 and 25 times, making it very hot. Fuel is then injected into the system, immediately igniting it. To achieve this, different grades of diesel focus on the amount of cetane in its composition. The higher the cetane rating, the easier the diesel combusts, supposedly offering increased efficiency.
As of 2001, All diesel sold in the UK has to meet the basic cetane level (51) in accordance with the EN590 standard.
The science bit: Because diesels rely on compression ignition (no spark), the quicker the fuel is able to ignite, the better. More cetane in a fuel mix means a shorter ignition delay time. The cetane number is a measure of the amount of time between the injection of fuel and combustion.
As well as a higher cetane level, fuel companies also mix in chemicals designed to clean injectors and remove harmful deposits from the engine's fuel system. On top of this, there are additives to aid lubrication and reduce wear and tear inside the engine.
Premium fuel vs regular fuel
If you’re wondering if premium fuel better is better for your car, trying it for a period of time may help you make up your mind. However, when you’re running a fleet, 10p extra per litre can mean thousands of pounds more on your monthly fuel bill. So, what are the differences between regular and premium fuel, and what are the benefits?
At the time of writing, you’ll pay around 10p more per litre for premium vs regular fuel. Aside from the obvious ‘premium’ pricing strategy, there are some genuine reasons why you’ll pay more for premium than regular fuel. MPG, performance levels and maintenance benefits are greater with premium fuel, however – as mentioned above – this depends on the type of vehicle you use.
Octane and cetane ratings
As mentioned earlier, premium petrol and diesel contain more octane and cetane, respectively, than regular petrol and diesel. More octane means petrol is harder to ignite and burns much hotter, creating greater efficiency and performance. More cetane in diesel makes it easier to ignite, shortening the auto-ignition delay time and delivering a similar efficiency boost.
Wear and tear
While 97/98 RON unleaded can offer marginal performance benefits in the right vehicles, it doesn’t have any other benefits over standard 95 RON. However, some Premium unleaded options, such as BP Ultimate and Shell V Power (99 RON), also have cleaning and lubrication additives to help reduce deposit build-up and wear and tear.
This is a big one for fleet operators, as a significant increase in MPG could seal the deal on a switch to premium fuels. The trick is balancing marketing claims and lab tests against real-world driving. While you can help your fuel efficiency by journey planning, using a petrol that could potentially be made up of carbon to carbon molecule bonds, increasing your car’s effieceny to burn the fuel, giving you a better performance.
The right fuel at the right price, nationwide
Now you know more about premium fuels, you can make an informed decision for your fleet. Whichever type of fuel you decide on, an Allstar fuel card will ensure you save money and keep your vehicles moving efficiently right across the UK, while also offering significant benefits for employees.
How to cut your fuel costs
Whether you choose to go for premium or regular fuels, there’s one definite way you can deliver savings on your fuel bill. The Allstar fuel card range delivers tailored solutions for your type of business, giving you compliance, control and savings across your fleet. Simply choose the right one for your operation.
To discuss the right Allstar fuel card for your fleet and to find out more about the benefits, please call us on 0845 266 5101.