Is Premium Fuel Worth It?
Originally uploaded on March 31, 2022
You will have spotted them across forecourts or even filled up with them accidently and been shocked at the price! But the range of premium fuels is rapidly expanding across the UK as more drivers recognise the advantages claimed by the energy majors, but just what are the benefits of premium fuels and should we be using them?
What is premium fuel?
At a glance, these higher performing fuels offer a higher octane number for petrol vehicles and a higher cetane rating for diesel vehicles.
Generally, premium fuels best suit high-performance engines that need a more powerful fuel to function correctly such as hot hatchbacks, sports cars, or prestige vehicles.
Is there a difference between premium petrol and premium diesel?
Petrol vehicles use an internal combustion engine, in which a spark plug ignites the air-fuel mixture. Unleaded fuels have a RON (Researched Octane Number) attributed to them, which measures how easily the petrol will ignite. The higher the RON, the easier the fuel is to ignite and less likely it is to combust incorrectly. This misplaced combustion, also known as detonation or engine knock, can damage engines over time.
Diesel engines, however, don’t use spark-ignition so don’t have a RON. Instead, diesel ignites under compression and uses a cetane rating to measure fuel performance. The higher the cetane rating of diesel, the quicker the fuel ignites when compressed, making it higher quality.
Despite the difference in engine processes, the concept behind premium fuels is the same for both petrol and diesel. Premium petrol features a higher RON and premium diesel features a higher cetane rating.
Do I have to use premium fuel?
When buying petrol, it’s important to make sure you are using a fuel with the correct RON for your vehicle. The standard RON for petrol in the UK is 95, which is suitable for the typical vehicles you would see daily on UK roads. Using a fuel with too low an octane level can lead to engine knock and eventual damage. Adversely, using a fuel with a higher-octane level than needed can lead to unnecessary spend.
Premium petrol has an RON of 97 or above. This means that premium petrol suits high-performance vehicles that would have trouble igniting ordinary unleaded.
If you’re unsure which fuel your vehicle needs, it’s best to check the recommended RON in your vehicle manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll be able to find this information in your owner’s manual and, in some vehicles, within the casing of your fuel cap.
Using a fuel with too high a RON will not cause any engine damage. However, it does mean you are paying extra for a higher quality fuel without much benefit. For fleets, this can build up to a huge expense.
Is premium fuel better?
As well as being more powerful, premium fuels claim to be better for your engine and prolong the health of your fleet vehicles due to a variety of cleaning additives. These additives are said to clear your vehicles’ engines of soot and grease, which can build up over time and affect vehicle performance. Shell’s V-Power fuels use their DYNAFLEX technology, and BP Ultimate fuels use their ACTIVE technology to clear grime from engines.
Built up dirt within an engine can affect a number of critical parts. If the soot circulates around the engine, it can wear down valves and seals leading to expensive damage. Excessive soot build up may also thicken any fuel that you top up with, which means that your engine may have to work harder to burn fuel, resulting in reduced fuel efficiency in your fleet. The cleaning additives within premium fuels are said to improve vehicle performance by clearing the engine and fuel injectors and removing these harmful deposits.
When discussing their V-Power fuel, Shell state that:
“Deposits can form, over time, on key fuel system components such as fuel injectors in diesel engines and intake valves/fuel injectors in unleaded engines. Now with boosted DYNAFLEX Technology3, Shell V-Power is our most effective fuel at helping to restore engine cleanliness by removing deposits that have already formed.”
There are also additives that increase the lubrication within the engine, usually for unleaded vehicles, which claim to reduce energy waste by helping the pistons turn more freely.
The proposed advantages of these extra fuel ingredients raise the question of if standard vehicles, that don’t require premium fuel, will see a benefit from using them. It’s worth bearing in mind that the practical results of these additives on standard vehicles are somewhat debated. For regular, less powerful vehicles, you are likely to see the same amount of benefit from using premium fuels occasionally.
Overall, when choosing fuel for your fleet, make sure you’re aware of what RON your fleet vehicles need and be sure your drivers are topping up with the correct type of fuel. In terms of regular refills, it is advised to stick with your everyday fuel for more standard fleet vehicles and use premium options for more powerful engines. Another vehicle that would benefit the most from premium fuel is a prestige investment vehicle, such as a Bentley or a sports car.
Consider working in a process where drivers of both petrol and diesel vehicles fill their tanks with one lot of premium fuel every now and again to balance prolonging the life of your vehicles and making sure you’re not paying out unnecessarily.