General Motors wants to make premium fuel the new standard, and it’s the second time vice president of global propulsion systems Dan Nicholson has spoken out for the change.
The executive addressed the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and Forbes reported on Monday that Nicholson believes now is the time to make the switch. Why? It comes as automakers diversify powertrains and experiment with more battery-electric cars and other fuels, such as fuel cells.
The switch would make a fuel with a 95 RON (research octane) and pump octane (PON) of 91 the standard. Translation: 91 pump gasoline would replace 87 gasoline as standard in North America at gas stations.
With a switch, automakers could tune engines for higher compression and extract more work from the fuel itself to increase efficiency. Nicholson said minor changes in engines could net a 3 percent increase in efficiency alone.
The major question is how the consumer would react to such a change. Although GM predicts no major upfront cost increases for engines tuned to run 91 octane as standard, a gallon of premium fuel cost $0.52 more on average across the United States as of last week. The cost to fuel up could outweigh the slight efficiency benefits.
However, the AFPM said refineries would ultimately shift their focus to produce the premium fuel, which would bring down its cost per gallon. We could see 91 octane cost about the same as 87 octane, but only if refineries matched the production mix to a new fuel standard.