Automakers want better octane gas, and we want it too.
Recent studies have shown that using premium gasoline isn't really necessary unless the car absolutely requires it, and many Americans waste money on premium gas for their cars that can also run on regular. Even though the current effects of premium gas don't offset the price premium, automakers believe that making better gasoline is the best way to build more fuel efficient cars and lower emissions. According to a report by Car and Driver, several automakers are currently trying to get higher octane gas in the US.
The idea to have higher octane fuel has now been backed by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, GM, and the United States Council for Automotive Research. The thought process is that with higher octane, automakers could build cars with higher compression ratios which would improve fuel efficiency and lower emissions. The US's 91-octane premium gas is equivalent to 95 or 96 RON (Research Octane Number) currently available in other parts of the world. Dan Nicholson, GM's vice president of global propulsion systems, says drivers would expect to get around 3 percent better fuel efficiency if 91-octane gasoline became the new standard.
Research from MIT has shown if we improved gasoline up to around 104 RON (98-octane in the US), we would "cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by up to 35 million tons and save $6 billion a year." This all sounds like it could be good for the environment, but the idea has three main roadblocks: the government, oil companies, and backlash from consumers. It would be difficult to get through any of these three barriers because increasing octane would mean big price increases that would be passed on to consumers. Oil companies wouldn't want to front any of these costs, so the price of gas would just go up.
Unless the government announces some crazy restrictions on fuel efficiency and emissions, we doubt that this idea will gain traction. We wouldn't mind having better gas in the US, but we don't think enough people would be willing to pony up the necessary price premium.