A General Motors executive says that making premium gasoline the new standard would make it easier for automakers to develop more fuel-efficient engines.
GM's VP of global propulsion systems, Dan Nicholson, made the statement in an address to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, where he said that despite his company's efforts to promote electric vehicles, this is "the right time" (as reported by Forbes) to make 91 octane gasoline the standard in North America as it is in Europe.
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Nicholson said that in engines optimized for it, such as Mazda's high-compression SkyActiv engines, as well as turbocharged units, higher octane fuel can improve efficiency by about three percent, but Forbes notes that saving would be offset by the added cost of the premium fuel. Upping the octane in a lower-compression engine typically has no measurable impact.
Right now, the three most commonly available grades of gas on this continent at 87 octane (regular), 89 (mid-grade) and 91 (premium); some gas stations also sell 94 octane fuel. Fuel is graded based on its resistance to knocking, or igniting before the spark plug fires.
According to the Canadian Automobile Association, today's national average gasoline price is $1.15/L for regular, while premium fuel typically adds $0.15 or more to the cost of a litre.
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