Big oil and auto manufactures are secretly collaborating to raise the octane in our gasoline. You probably haven't heard too much about it because this will result in higher gas prices and no company wants to be associated with that.
In order to keep up with the ever increasing mpg and clean emissions standards set forth by the EPA, auto manufactures have been burning the candle at both ends. They've needed to develop super efficient engines, battery electric technology, improved aerodynamics, and transmissions with more speeds than a mountain bike. The goal is to use as little energy as possibly and these methods are very expensive.
With the understanding that internal combustion gasoline engines are still very much the standard in automotive transportation, automakers are now developing a new generation of high compression and forced induction engines that would need to run on higher octane "premium" fuel. These high compression engines are able to run more efficiently due to the octane making the gasoline more potent and energy dense. More energy per gallon results in more miles per gallon and lower co2 emissions. GM global propulsion systems chief Dan Nicholson said last year:
"Higher-octane fuels are the cheapest CO2 reduction," Nicholson added that: "Fuels and engines must be designed as a total system. It makes absolutely no sense to have fuel out of the mix."
Higher gas prices will likely come as the result of phasing out the cheaper lower grade fuel. There may come a day when 93 octane (our premium now) will be the lowest available. Although an exact figure has not yet been released, it's feasible that the increase won't be anywhere near the $10-$20 a gallon we pay for 100+ octane today. This new fuel will be the norm, it will be mass produced and need to be accepted by the public. Just to give you an idea of how cheap this high octane could be, check out what an anonymous industry executive said according to the Detroit free press:
"Ten cents a gallon more is probably palatable. A quarter risks customer acceptance,"
Unfortunately, if your car is not designed to take advantage of the high octane you will not see any benefit at all.
This begs the question of whether we are going to see yet another increase in power numbers coming from enthusiast oriented performance cars. Even today, the new Dodge Demon is able to utilize 100 octane fuel to make 840 horsepower, 32 more than when it's using 91 octane. Performance cars are definitely reaching the limits of our fuel. The increase in octane is just the bump we need to see 1,000 horsepower cars roll right off of the factory line. For all you tuners out there, imagine E85 type power without the loss of fuel mileage and increase in fuel system cost. Let the madness continue.