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SAE Powertrain Panel: Higher-Octane Gas Could Improve Fuel Economy - WardsAuto
2014 SAE World Congress

Apr 9, 2014
Drew Winter

Ford’s Bob Fascetti: Raising U.S. octane would be win-win for innovators and customers.

The U.S. mandated European-style standards for ultra-low sulfur content in diesel fuel in 2007, resulting in improved diesel engines and emissions...

DETROIT – Vehicle fuel efficiency could be improved significantly if the U.S. would shift to higher-octane gasoline, Detroit Three powertrain chiefs tell attendees at the SAE World Congress here.

The rationale is simple: Higher-octane fuels burn more predictably and allow automakers to design engines with higher compression ratios. Higher compression ratios yield more power per combustion event and more power-dense and efficient engines.

Conversely, low-octane gasoline can detonate unpredictably in the combustion chamber and create engine-damaging “knock.” Programming spark timing to avoid knock and keeping compression ratios lower robs horsepower and efficiency.

U.S. fuel has a research octane number (RON) of about 91, while Europe has a standard of 95 RON or higher. That’s a huge difference to engine experts. If automakers could stop designing engines to avoid low-octane engine knock, engine efficiency could be improved by as much as 5%, Bob Fascetti, vice president-Powertrain Engineering at Ford tells SAE attendees.

“We have to design for regular fuel (91 RON in the U.S.). If we could get 95 RON fuel at the pump like Europe, if we could get higher compression ratios, we could get big benefits,” Fascetti says...

...“I can’t say we’ve actually lobbied together, but it’s a common-sense thing. If we had a single-octane fuel that was higher, then we can take advantage of that for the customer, we can implement higher compression ratios and we won’t be knock-limited on the fuel,” Fascetti says. “It’s win-win for the innovators as well as for the customers.”

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WASHINGTON, DC, March 3, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today finalized a rule intended to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks by lowering the allowable sulfur content of gasoline and setting new vehicle emissions standards. Known as Tier 3, the rule will take effect on January 1, 2017

The final fuel standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent – down from 30 to 10 parts per million (ppm). Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently.

The final standards will cut soot, smog and toxic emissions from cars and trucks. The Obama Administration’s actions to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases from these same vehicles will also result in average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over a vehicle’s lifetime.

So it looks like we are already on that....
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