Could 95 Become the New 87? EPA Considers Octane Increase

Gas Pump Octane Buttons at Station

“Premium fuel only.”

I saw the sticker inside the fuel door on my first fill-up after purchasing a used ‘99 Toyota Land Cruiser. It caught me off guard.

I’ve driven Porsches, Jaguars, and Audis that only drink the premium stuff, but figured a Toyota would be safe to fill with the more economical 87 octane.

Not so much.

I’m now in a long-term relationship with a 13-mpg SUV that demands 92 octane. That’s certainly not an ideal situation.

If the EPA gets its way, 92 octane and higher could become the new normal for many other drivers. Looks like we’re heading toward a high-octane future.

The push for greener gas-powered engines means higher compression is needed, which requires higher octane fuel. Octane ratings tell us how much fuel can be compressed before igniting. If gasoline ignites from compression, instead of by a spark, it will cause a knocking in the engine that can result in damage.

As compression in modern engines increases, displacement continues to drop as automakers pursue efficiency and power gains through turbocharging and direct injection. Higher-technology motors require higher-octane fuel to keep them running as engineered. In fact, it may not be long until vehicles require gasoline with higher octane than today’s pumps can provide.

The catch with high-octane fuel, of course, is that it costs significantly more than the lower-grade stuff. At least for now.

Some groups are claiming that higher-octane fuel in high-compression engines could boost gas mileage by up to six percent, which will help offset the higher cost of the fuel.

However, if the EPA mandates higher-octane fuel, and more new cars start requiring it, production will need to increase to keep up with demand, which should help lower prices.

So will using high-octane fuel in a car that doesn’t require it give the driver any benefits? Some persistent rumors say that using premium will run cleaner or provide better performance, but neither are true. Use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer and you’ll experience the best combination of economy and performance possible for your car.

Do you use the manufacturer-recommended fuel in your car? 

-tgriffith

Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

Used Toyota Land Cruiser

1 Comment

  1. Mine says e85 flex fuel but i never know which to pick the e 15 or the newer e version for flex fuels vehicles i didnt no if im supposed to subtract the eql15 from 100 and get e85 or which if the 2 Flex fuel gases my state offers at the lumos?

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