Do We Really Know What’s In Our Petrol?

male-hand-holding-fuel-pump guest writer Sean Allison on what goes into our petrol

Filling up at the petrol station. You have to do it. The government loves it when you do it. For some of us, this obligatory visit is needed more often. For the people who choose to be different, with their electric cars and Hybrid counter parts, you visit less and less.

But do we really know what we are pumping into our cars? You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and you can’t taste it. So how do you know what you’re paying £1.20 a litre for?

Petrol and diesel prices in the UK currently range between £1.14 per litre to a whopping £1.59 per litre ( This is from standard unleaded petrol, to ‘premium diesel’. As we know, these tend to fluctuate a lot. Remember the days of 60p per litre!

So what is the difference between standard fuels and premium fuels? Petrol is measured in RON. Standard Unleaded in the UK is around 95RON. RON is commonly referred to as the knock rating. The higher the RON, generally the better the performance characteristics demonstrated by the vehicle. Premium unleaded is around 97 or 98RON. Most German car manufacturer actually specify premium fuel only in their cars due to the tuning qualities of German engines. If a lower RON fuel is used, this can effect performance and economy. However, depending on the vehicle, the driver doesn’t usually notice this difference.

Is there anything else in our fuel? Well yes. Manufacturers add different chemical cocktails to our fuels. In the winter, additives are added to diesel to stop it from turning into a gel (otherwise known as ‘waxing’). Some include additives to help clean the inside of the engine. Some companies even claim to be able to make cars achieve better fuel consumption figures. For that extra 4p per litre, could you really be squeezing more miles from a tank?

I drive a 2007 Ford Fiesta ST, It has a very thirsty 2.0-litre engine! If I fill with standard unleaded (95RON), I achieve around 220 miles per tank. If I fill with Tesco’s 99RON ‘Momentum’, I get around 260miles per tank. So for roughly £2 extra, I’m travelling an extra 40miles and keeping my engine healthy at the same time.

So maybe you might have that extra thought before you pick up the pump…


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