Leading automakers are proposing a radical change to conventional fuel in order to improve fuel economy and cut CO2 emissions.
Unless you’re a Tesla owner, or owner of several other, lesser-known all-electric cars, you still need to put gas in your car to get from point A to point B. You hopefully feel slightly guilty every time you fill up, otherwise, this planet is doomed to a slow boil of all life currently residing on it.
It seems that carmakers, or at least some of them, are feeling similarly guilty for their role in killing the planet, and so want to make some radical changes to the way we use fuel. How radical? They want regular, unleaded gas to have a much higher octane than it currently does.
Japanese carmaker Honda, as well as the United States Council for Automotive Research, which is a technology alliance between Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, propose to raise the octave of basic gasoline from current levels to 95 or 96 research octane number, or RON. That’s the level that Dan Nicholson, GM’s vice president of global propulsion systems, says will produce an optimum societal benefit.
Optimum in this case means cars with greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions across all of North America. The catch is 95 RON equates to roughly 91 premium octane gas currently available, so the new standard gas price would be for the expensive stuff that’s normally only for luxury sports cars.
“This is a tough sell,” GM’s Nicholson admits. “It’s very doable from an automotive OEM and a propulsion standpoint. But the real issue is the political will for all the stakeholders to come together.”
A tough sell is a bit of an understatement. America has been addicted to cheap gas for decades, and the only way to get both the public and gas companies to raise fuel octanes would be highly unpopular legislation.
Big Oil has no incentive to get on board with this plan either since the two ways to raise fuel octanes would hurt their bottom line. Big Oil could change their manufacturing process to produce better oil, but that’d require a huge capital investment. Or they could add 25 percent ethanol instead of 10 percent ethanol to gas, but that means now they’re selling less oil, again hurting their bottom line.
It’s a cool idea, but Elon Musk probably has the right idea with this electric car thing. Zero emissions, Big Oil doesn’t get a dime, and no political capital necessary.