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Ever been to a fuel station where you have been asked to fill in 'premium' petrol which costs a few rupees more than the regular unleaded petrol? Oil companies claim these fuels increase fuel efficiency and power levels, hence commanding the premium.
Is it worth the extra money? Well, it is definitely worth paying more for only if it has a higher octane rating. Octane rating of a fuel is a standard measure of a particular fuel's performance. The higher the octane rating is, the better will be performance of the fuel.
Octane is a hydrocarbon and an alkane that is highly combustible. Petrol with lower octane rating is usually good enough for most normal cars and bikes as the compression ratio of those engines wouldn't be very high.
However, as the compression ratio increases, it is suggested to use higher octane fuels. This is simply because fuels with lower octane levels cause engine knocking in high compression engines.
Engine knocking is the cringeworthy sound of metal being hit by the ignition of the fuel before the spark. Over a period of time, engine knocking can damage critical engine components such as the pistons, connecting rods and even insides of the cylinder itself.
Higher octane fuels are less vulnerable to uncontrolled or premature ignition that causes engine knocking. All put together, what this means is that engines with higher compression ratios are designed to run on fuels with higher octane rating.
This is the very reason why almost all sports cars and sports bikes in India queue up at a particular petrol filling station in every city. There is a high possibility that the particular fuel pump sells high octane fuels.
Higher octane rating also make the fuel more efficient, as every bit of energy would be squeezed out of the petrol. Higher octane fuels also are greener and help the car produce less emissions. Most fuel stations in Europe and America offer several fuels with different octane rating.
In India however, only a small number of fuelling stations offer fuels with higher octane rating. There are many that sell rebranded normal fuel at a premium, but without a higher octane rating. It is always advisable to find out what the octane rating of your premium fuel is.
Fuels With Different Octane Levels In India:
The regular unleaded petrol dispensed at all gas stations have an 87 octane rating. After implementation of BS-IV emissions norms though, most fuelling stations have switched to 91 octane.
HPCL (Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited) sells HP Power which is a regular petrol with additives.
IOC (Indian Oil Corporation) dispenses XtraPremium petrol at their outlets with an octane rating of 91.
BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited) sells Speed with an octane rating of 91.
BPCL also sells Speed 97, which as the name suggests has an octane rating of 97.
Shell sells 91 Octane fuel and the Shell V-Power that is being marketed as the performance fuel has the same 91 octane rating, but comes with additives.
For several years, the highest octane rating for fuels in India was 97. Now though, one can purchase 99 octane fuels from select HPCL outlets in large Indian metropolitan cities. The 99 octane fuel costs upwards of Rs 100 per litre.
The octane rating for diesel fuels do not really matter since a diesel engine compresses only the air and injects fuel into the cylinder. This way, the fuel does not have to endure high compression levels for a long time, thereby avoiding knocking.
Thoughts On Fuels With Different Octane Ratings In India
Cars and bikes are getting more powerful by the day and come equipped with more complex fuel-injected, high-compression engines. The only way forward is the increased usage of high-octane fuels. It would help greatly if the government takes a few steps to keep the prices of high octane fuels in check.