The message from automobile manufacturers could not be clearer: they want—and need—higher octane fuels. As automakers introduce more efficient engine technologies, the demand for higher-octane fuels continues to grow. Traditional petroleum-based octane additives are expensive and in short supply, and aromatic hydrocarbon octane additives like benzene are toxic and worsen air pollution.
Fortunately, ethanol is ready to deliver the high octane fuel that auto manufacturers recommend with cost savings that consumers need. With a blending octane rating of 114, ethanol is the cleanest and most affordable source of octane on the planet.
Most refiners today produce gasoline with an octane rating of 84, then upgrade it to 87 (the minimum allowed in most states) by adding 10 percent ethanol, to create a fuel known as E10. This offers significant savings, reduced energy use, and lower emissions at the refinery.
E15, or gas blended with 15 percent ethanol, offers an octane rating of 88, giving consumers an added boost at a lower cost.
Even higher fuel blends like E20 or E40 could deliver the same—or better—fuel economy as regular gasoline when paired with an optimized engine, but with less energy expended per mile and fewer emissions.
That’s why automakers view ethanol-based high-octane fuels as a winning strategy for compliance with more stringent future fuel economy and emissions standards.