As a motorist you must have seen the branded fuels in most of the fuel pumps, but might have never experienced them. It’s time to be acquainted with the products and tank it.
In India there are three kinds of automotive fuel:
i) Unleaded or normal petrol and diesel
ii) Branded petrol and diesel (ExtraPremium / Speed / Power, etc)
iii) High Octane Petrol and High Cetane Diesel (93 Octane / Speed 97, etc.)
Petrol in technical terms is called Gasoline or Motor Spirit. Petrol is normally produced in refineries by the fractional distillation of crude oil. It is then further treated with the addition of multifunctional additives to enhance its octane rating and other properties. Technically, it is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons that are balanced to deliver a satisfactory engine performance over a wide range of operating conditions. This product, commonly available in all fuel pumps is called ‘unleaded’ petrol.
Branded petrol is normal petrol blended with multifunctional additives.
Indian Oil sells its branded petrol as ‘XtraPremium’, Hindustan Petroleum calls its special petrol ‘Power’ and Bharat Petroleum terms its superior petrol ‘Speed’.
These premium brands of petrol are priced slightly higher – at approximately 4-5% – and are available in most of the fuel outlets in the city alongside the ‘unleaded’ or normal petrol.
High octane petrol
Octane number is the measure of the ignition quality of gasoline or petrol. Higher the octane number, less susceptible is the fuel to ‘knocking’ (minute explosions caused by its premature burning in the combustion chamber when burnt in a standard spark-ignition engine. In short, it is a figure indicating the anti-knock properties of a fuel.
High octane petrol is a special quality petrol required for premium or high performance cars only. In diesel, it is termed as the ‘cetane number’.
In India, the minimum octane rating for fuels as prescribed by the Government is 91 octane. Thus, the normal unleaded fuel sold through any company in India has an octane rating of 91. The branded fuels like XtraPremium, Speed and Power also have the same octane rating of 91. The higher octane petrol variants are however rated as 93, 95 or 98 octane and available in very few outlets in metro cities only.
The government’s policy guidelines on fuel specifications relate mainly to emission standards such as BS-III, BS-IV, BS-VI etc., and is conceptually different. It mainly focuses on the reduction of sulphur content in all types of automotive fuels for better emission standards relating to automotive pollution and should not be confused with branded fuels which are blended with special additives and adheres to all government emission norms.
Engine deposits and effects
In new vehicles, the fuel-port injectors, intake valves and combustion chambers are completely free of deposits. Over a period of time, deposits begin to accumulate on these engine parts and affect the functioning of the engine which causes a drop in its performance.
Branded petrol containing additives not only removes the existing deposits but also prevents the formation of new ones. This ensures that the vehicle’s engine remains free from deposits resulting in continuous peak performance.
Types of deposits that affect smooth engine functioning:
Branded petrol as performance enhancer
Blended with special additives and cleansers, the premium or branded petrol not only removes existing deposits but also prevents the formation of new ones. This ensures that the vehicle’s engine remains free from deposits at all times resulting in peak engine performance and optimum output of power.
Branded petrol is beneficial for both the old carburettor engines as well as the new generation multi-port fuel injection engines.
Test Report of Team Wheels
To test the effects of branded fuels, Team WHEELS tried XtraPremium, the branded petrol of Indian Oil, in two vehicles – one, a fifteen-year old 1300 cc Honda City and the other, a three-year old 1500 cc Ford EcoSport.
Mileage: With a tank-full of the branded petrol and a short refill thereafter, it was found that both the vehicles, experienced an improvement of approximately 5% over the ‘unleaded’ or normal petrol which they used earlier. Interestingly, the mileage picked up drastically to over 9% in the Honda after the second tank-fill with branded petrol. The EcoSport, during the same period, showed a 6% improvement.
Power: No significant change in output of power was noticed initially. But after 50 km or so, the driveability of the Honda City improved to a great extent. There was an enhanced thrust of power which picked up remarkably after 300 km along with a sustained smoothness. However, there was not much noticeable change in the power of the EcoSport.
The team purposely switched over the brands from Indian Oil’s XtraPremium to Bharat Petroleum’s Speed petrol for the second tank refill. No noticeable change was observed with the interchange of brands.
Branded diesel could not be tested by Team WHEELS due to its unavailability in the retail outlets the team searched for in Kolkata.
Advantages of branded petrol
Time required for the enhanced effects of branded fuel
It takes a little while before the existing deposits are completely cleaned and removed from an engine. The additives in branded fuel clean an engine through its usage, and takes around two or three tank-fills before the improved effects are actually experienced.
Diesel, in technical terms, is called High Speed Diesel (HSD). Diesel engines do not use high-voltage spark ignition (spark plugs) burning the fuel in more air than is required for the chemical reaction. They thus use less fuel. As they have high compression ratios and no throttle, diesel engines are more efficient than many spark-ignited engines. Engines running on diesel also provide more torque, and are less likely to stall, as they are controlled by a mechanical or electronic governor.
Diesel-cars generally have a better fuel economy than their equivalent gasoline-cars. Their greater economy is due to the higher energy content per-litre of diesel fuel and the intrinsic efficiency of the diesel engine. However, the increased compression ratios means that there are increased emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from diesel engines which becomes the main drawback of diesel engines versus gasoline engines.
Sulphur in the fuel is oxidized during combustion, producing sulphur dioxide and sulphur trioxide. However, the process for lowering sulphur also reduces the lubricity of the fuel, meaning that the additives must be put into the fuel to help lubricate fuel injectors.
Problem with diesel
With the passage of time, the performance of a diesel vehicle drops. The reason for this lies in heavy residual deposits on the engine. Unlike petrol engines, diesel engines depend on the injection of diesel fuel into heated compressed air, where diesel burns due to high temperature.
For complete combustion of fuel, it is very important for the fuel injector to convert the fuel into a fine mist and distribute it evenly in the combustion chamber. Over a period of time, this leads to excessive wear of the pump and formation of residual deposits on the injectors. As a result, the flow of diesel gets affected and fuel droplets in the mist become uneven in size and distributed in an uneven manner. Not only does this lead to incomplete combustion, but also results in increased deposits. Naturally this hampers the power and acceleration of the vehicle and uses up more diesel. These deposits end up affecting the performance and lead to:
Effects of branded diesel
The new generation branded diesels, which contain multi-functional additives keep a vehicle healthier, resulting in better performance, more mileage, easier acceleration and lower emissions. With branded diesel, the solution is easy. Branded diesel is specially formulated to tackle the formation of deposits and other related problems in diesel engines. In fact, branded diesel not only removes the existing deposits, but also prevents the formation of new deposits, ensuring a vehicle’s engine remains free from deposits at all times and results in peak engine performance – similar to branded petrol.
However, it could take two tank-fills of branded diesel before any benefit is noticed. Similar to branded petrol, it takes a little while before the existing deposits are cleaned and completely removed.
It is advisable to keep the quantity of regular diesel to the minimum, before filling in branded diesel. In extreme cases, replacement of fuel filter may be required after switching to branded diesel since the deposits settled in the fuel tank may get lodged in the fuel filter after the branded diesel cleans them out from the fuel tank.
Indian Oil brands its premium diesel as ExtraMile. Hindustan Petroleum calls its superior diesel Turbojet and Bharat Petroleum terms its superior diesel Hi Speed.
However, in Kolkata it was observed by Team WHEELS that unlike branded petrol, the availablity of branded diesel is extremely low. Very few fuel pumps sell branded diesel in Kolkata.
Branded fuels cost marginally higher – approximately 4-5%.
However, the savings from improved mileage offset more than the extra cost borne on branded fuels. Moreover, the reduction in maintenance costs and the smoother ride make up for more than the extra payment.
Once the branded fuel has taken effect on an engine, the money saved through the improved mileage offsets more than the marginally higher price of branded fuel.
For instance, a 40-litre tank would cost approximately Rs 140 (40 litres x Rs 3.50) more than ‘unleaded’ petrol for a full tank-fill of petrol. For unleaded petrol, a tank-fill may cost Rs 3000, whereas the branded petrol would cost marginally higher – around Rs 3140.
Effects of mixing unleaded fuel with branded fuel
Branded fuel is normal fuel mixed with additives or cleansers. Thus, a mixture of ‘unleaded’ and branded fuel or a mixture of two brands does not harm an engine in any way. A car engine runs normally with the mixed fuels.
Branded fuels are regular or normal fuels blended with multifunctional additives. Thus, switching back to normal fuel does not have any side effects.
Branded fuel on new cars
A new engine is completely free of deposits. It is thus expected to perform at its optimum level. However, the regular use of branded fuel in a new vehicle ensures that the engine remains deposit free, thereby preventing the vehicle or equipment performance from deteriorating. In fact, most of the leading vehicle manufacturers recommend the use of multifunctional additives with fuel to ensure that the vehicle remains healthier over longer periods of time and gives its best performance.
However, in some cases, the deposits when cleaned from the engine parts, might get stuck in the fuel filter causing a decline in performance. If such a decline is noticed, all that needs to be done is to get the car serviced for the engine to perform at optimum performance.
To round up, with all the benefits of branded fuels, it is time that the motorists try the premium products for enhanced power, better mileage and superior experience.
Advantages of branded diesel