Why is there midgrade gas?
4:15

Why is there midgrade gas?

Roadshow
[MUSIC] Hey folks. Cooley here. Got another one of your emails on high tech cars and modern driving. This one comes in from Steve P in Rochester, who asks, it's my understanding that most cars are designed to run on 87 octane fuel and some performance cars are designed for 91. That makes me wonder why my gas station even offers mid-level or 89 octane fuel. Do some cars actually call for it? Well yeah believe it or not, some cars actually do specify that mid grade. And by some, I mean about this many. [LAUGH] I took a look at fueleconomy.gov, which is where all the master database Information about cars and economy and what fuel they use is lifted, government database, and I found that almost no cars need it. Some 3.2 liter 6 cylinder engine jeeps call for it, or a 5.7 liter Chrysler 300, or Dodge Challenger call for 89. And that's it, so one company, a few cars, with a certain engine configuration so this is a really odd ball fuel. Another way to look at it is by sales percentage at the pump. As of much 2018 regular is of course the lion share. It's 83% of sales. Premium comes in a distant second at 10%. And look at midgrade, single digits. It's only 7% of what's sold at the pump. Now, you probably drive a 2010 Mazda6, one of our favorite cars over the years, great-fun-to-drive engine. But notice right there in the owner's manual, it calls for plain old regular gas, 87 octane. Key thing to remember here is that adding a high opting fuel to your engine unless it calls for it doesn't make it perform better. Your engine can only use the octane it was designed for. The gasoline doesn't drag the engine to a higher performance. Profile. See a video that we did recently explaining octane. It's a really interesting subject that most people misunderstand. Now here's the news, GM, Fiat, Chrysler and Ford are all lobbying regulators to move the U.S. to a single octane And a higher one. They want to see 95 as the only thing at the pump. Now, here's a caveat the 95 they're talking about is what's called research octane. Which tends to run higher than the pump number you see. Which is research, and motor octane averaged together. I'm not gonna bore you with how they calculate those, but just know we are being lobbied to go to a higher octane, and a single grade at the pump. Let's say it comes out to be 92 or 3. So the idea here is car makers want that because they can then continue to engineer smaller and smaller engines that use higher compression. Higher octane is essential to that. And a higher compression engine quite literally gives you more bang for your buck, more buck for every drop of fuel, and therefore more power while using less fuel. So then the consumer immediately says wait a minute. That means everyone's gonna be driving premium. That's all there will be at the pump. Who's paying for that? Well the car makers say first of all you'll pay for it at the pump but you'll make it back from engines that can use high octane to get more power out of a smaller motor and therefore give you big fuel savings. They say you can easily make that work and pencil that out on paper. They also say the fuel industry's gotta do its part by taking the savings they'll have from not having to blend out three grades of fuel in just about every location, and instead just do one. Makes their operation simpler, but then we're relying on them to pass the savings on to us at the pump of course. That's a big if, right? And let's not forget that billions of cars and pumps tied to the old three grade system will be around for years, or decades, blunting the economy of offering a single grade. And here's the last sort of interesting angle to this. A lot of it is going to come down to politics. You've got the ethanol and biofuels lobby who want to have fuels blended a certain way and they've also got some federal regulations that demand a certain degree of Biofuels increasingly in motor gas, and that's gonna have a big piece of the strategy here as well. So we'll keep you apprised of what's going on, but yes, mid-grade is a lonely fuel. If your car calls for regular, you're getting nowhere by bumping up one notch, or even two, don't waste your money. But if your calls for mid-grade use it, if it calls for premium, do that. Keep those emails coming. I'm here to answer your questions about high-tech cars and modern driving. It's cooley@theroadshow.com.

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