Types Of Car Fuel

What’s In A Name?

Most of the time, you don’t need to know much about the fuel your car uses.

Petrol or diesel?

That’s all you need to remember, although you would be surprised how many people get this wrong every year – misfuelling is a big problem.

However, there is a bit more to fuel than this, and even petrol comes in different types. We’ve produced a guide to the main types of fuel on offer in the UK – click on a link for more information:

Petrol

Premium Unleaded (95 RON)

This is bog-standard unleaded petrol. Despite the name ‘premium’, it’s actually the standard petrol sold all over Europe.

95 RON refers to the octane level of the petrol. This is a measure of how easily the fuel will ignite inside an engine. Higher octane levels mean that the fuel will not ignite as easily and are required for some (a few) high performance engines.

Premium unleaded is suitable for almost all petrol engines. You should be safe to use it unless your car’s user manual specifically specifies that you should only use petrol with an octane rating higher than 95. Very few cars require this.

Premium unleaded fuel pumps are usually green. Check the label before you fill.

Super Unleaded (97/98 RON)

Super unleaded is the highest octane petrol that is widely available in the UK. A higher octane rating means that the fuel will require greater compression (more pressure) to ignite. Some car engines – especially high performance Japanese cars – require the use of super unleaded, while performance cars like Porsches and Ferraris will also tend to use this fuel, although it may not strictly be required.

Super unleaded can be used in any petrol engine but will only provide a beneficial effect in a small minority of engines as most engines are not able to take advantage of the higher octane rating.

Premium Fuels – e.g. Shell V-Power, BP Ultimate

Several fuel manufacturers offer own-branded high performance fuels that claim to offer additional benefits in addition to a higher octane rating. The best known example of premium petrol in the UK is probably Shell V-Power Unleaded. V-Power Unleaded has an octane rating of 99RON, the highest available in the UK.

Shell say that V-Power Unleaded offers three benefits – improved lubrication, cleaning action and higher performance (for engines that can benefit) due to the high octane rating.

Two alternative premium fuels are BP Ultimate Unleaded and Total Excellium Unleaded. These claim to offer similar benefits to V-Power but are only rated at 97RON.

Premium super unleaded petrol fuels can be used in any petrol engine but only some drivers/cars will experience a noticeable improvement in fuel economy or performance.

Diesel

Many garages only offer one type of diesel for cars. It may be labelled as ‘city diesel’ or ‘low sulphur diesel’, just plain ‘diesel’ or something else.

Whatever it’s called, it should be fine for any current diesel car or van.

Diesel fuel pumps are usually black. Check the label before you fill.

Premium Diesel Fuels

As with petrol, however, there are a few higher performance diesel fuels available. The main three available in the UK are Shell V-Power Diesel, BP Ultimate Diesel and Total Excellium Diesel.

Whether these are worthwhile for you is down to your testing and your vehicle. These fuels generally offer a higher cetane rating which means that when used, they should ignite and burn more quickly and efficiently. These fuels also include additional lubrication and cleaning agents to help keep your engine clean and remove existing deposits, something which can reduce performance on diesel engines.

LPG

LPG Autogas is an alternative to petrol. LPG stands for Liquefied Petroleum Gas. Petrol engines have to be specifically converted to run on LPG and have an additional tank fitted (a bit like a gas cylinder).

LPG is available at a reasonable number of UK garages and is much cheaper than petrol, although it does give poorer fuel consumption.

However, before you start thinking about converting your car to LPG, it is important to remember that LPG is only cheaper because the fuel duty (tax) on it is much lower than the duty on petrol.

Click here for our guide to LPG Conversion

LPG isn’t intrinsically cheaper, so if the government of the day decides to change the rate of duty on LPG, the cost could shoot up. LPG is good in London, however, as it makes you exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

What Are Biodiesel & Bioethanol?

Biodiesel and bioethanol are diesel and ethanol fuels that are made from plant crops, rather than oil. They work in approximately the same way as diesel and petrol (respectively) and can be used instead of these fuels on their own or blended with regular diesel and petrol.

Since the 15th April, 2008, a government policy called the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation has required UK fuel suppliers to include a certain percentage of biofuels in the fuels they sell. For 2010/11, this figure is 3.5% and this target is planned to gradually increase to just over 5% over the next few years.

What this means for you and I is that the petrol and diesel we buy in the UK (and throughout the EU) now normally includes some biofuel. These fuels still confirm to the relevant British Standards for petrol and diesel and are accepted by car manufacturers – so they won’t cause problems with your car or with the warranty on new cars.

Using A Higher Percentage of Biofuel In Your Car

If you want to run a fuel with a greater percentage of biofuel, then you need to look at a specific biofuel product.

Before doing this, be aware that many car manufacturers do not support the use of these fuels in their cars. While they may work fine, using an unsupported biofuel is likely to invalidate your car’s warranty if any problems arise as a result.

For diesel vehicles in the UK, biodiesel is the most common substitute for regular, oil-based diesel. While there are biodiesel companies out there who make 100% biodiesel, this requires modifications to most cars for them to remain reliable so isn’t recommended for most casual users.

More practical is to use a fuel that is a mixture of diesel and biodiesel. Some regular garages are now selling such fuels. The fuel names normally include a number indicating the proportion of biodiesel that has been added to regular diesel to make the fuel.

For example, B30 would be 30% biodiesel, 70% regular diesel.

For petrol car drivers, the choices are even fewer – bioethanol is the chosen biofuel substitute for petrol but availability of ethanol-based fuels in the UK is very limited. If you do find one, it should have the same naming convention as biodiesel fuels – e.g. E30 would be a fuel containing 30% ethanol and 70% petrol.

18 thoughts on “Types Of Car Fuel

  • June 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm
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    Hi..please tell me the fuel type fo lexus ls 400 1998 ..is 91 ron ok ..or should be 95..thanks

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  • December 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm
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    Hi …… I have a Seat Leon FR 1.8 TSI unleaded petrol car. I wondered which petrol will be best for it – Shell Fuelsave or Shell V-Power and what octane both of these fuels are. Seat say that no less than 95 octane should go in the car. Can you please verify which is best for our car. Thanks.

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    • December 1, 2014 at 3:08 pm
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      Hi Barry,

      Shell Fuelsave is a standard premium unleaded fuel which is rated at 95 octane — as are all premium unleaded fuels sold in the UK, and most of Europe. This will be perfectly fine for your car.

      Shell V-Power Nitro+ is the latest version of V Power and is rated at 99 RON in the UK. It is a premium super unleaded fuel and is more expensive than Fuelsave. Using V-Power may make a small difference to the performance of your car, but the biggest benefits of V-Power are said to be its cleaning and lubrication properties, which should help keep your engine running as efficiently as possible and prevent carbon and soot deposits building up in the engine.

      According to fans of V-Power like Honest John, consistent use of V-Power will provide a mix of improved performance and fuel consumption, depending on how you drive.

      The reality seems to be that the benefits vary depending on your vehicle — the best approach is probably to try a few tanks and see if it works for you, if you’re curious.

      Hope this helps,

      Roland

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      • May 14, 2015 at 6:29 am
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        common small engine fuels like 1.gasoline 2.diesel 3.lpg 4.lng 5.cng iam asking .why are so many different types of fuels?

    • September 9, 2016 at 3:44 pm
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      For any direct injection petrol car, super unleaded should be used. The reasons for this are higher purity and greater knock resistance.

      95 RON is BS EN 228 rather than BS 7800. There is 5% bio ethanol content in 95 and this easily separates to form water in the fuel system. Direct injection means the injector nozzles spray directly into the combustion chamber do are very prone to clogging. V Power etc usually have greater detergency levels to help this.

      Also, as the fuel is sprayed into the combustion chamber, it is more easily metered and these engines run at their knock limit which means the knock sensors often signal knock and the management map often retards the ignition to prevent oxides of nitrogen production.

      Of further interest may be the fact that as the fuel is not sprayed onto the back of the inlet valves, these engines suffer carbon build up on the inlet valves. This greatly reduces performance. The best way to reduce this is to use an oil catch tank and vent the crankcase gases externally but this constitutes fuel system modification (insurance implications). This greatly reduces oily gas leaving a residue on the valves. Also, an annual clean with Sea Foam or similar (not fuel additive but induction system cleaner) is an effective and essential extra maintenance procedure to keep things clean and prevent performance reduction. As a side note, direct injection engines are particularly unsuited to urban conditions and really need to be worked to help reduce carbon build up.

      Finally, as the VAG forums are full of expensive problems with the FSI, TSI and TFSI engines, it should be borne in mind that a spirit introduced directly into the combustion chamber can in certain conditions make it’s way past the piston rings and dilute the engine oil. This reduces the oil film strength and is the reason these engines often require very expensive repair work. The reason this still happens is VAG’s refusal to place engineering considerations ahead of environmental ones. Both Mitsubishi and Alfa Romeo learned that lesson many years ago which is why the specified 10W/60 engine oil in their GDI and JTS engines respectively. For this reason, I’d advise anyone with a TSI engine or similar to use exclusively a 10W/50 or 10W/60 engine oil meeting API SN standards. The greater film strength will protect the engine and the greater detergency and dispersant levels should help keep the oil in good condition. I’d also recommend slightly reduced service intervals due to the greater Viscosity Index improver content in such an engine oil. Personally, I use Motul 8100 X-cess 10W/60 in my Alfa and the aforementioned advice has ensured reliability and restored lost performance.

      Regards
      Al

      Reply
  • November 17, 2015 at 8:28 pm
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    The usual info about octane ratings, but nothing about the known corrosion problems from the biofuel added to the mix. This appears to have serious consequences for owners of carburetor vehicles and those over ten years old.
    Anybody know of petrols that contain no bio elements, as this could be serious.
    A Google search brings up material from 2012 and 2013, nothing current.
    MJO 2015-11-17

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    • November 17, 2015 at 8:44 pm
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      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment. However, in fairness I think that genuine biofuel-related problems are pretty rare. I believe they mostly apply only to classic vehicles and perhaps newer vehicles that are rarely used, where the fuel might degrade in the vehicle.

      For the vast majority of drivers and vehicles there have been no problems with biofuels, despite widespread suspicion. To be honest, I think vehicles need to be a lot older than 10 years to face potential issues. Carburettors were being phased out on new cars in the 1980s, after all.

      I personally run a 14 year old vehicle and have never had a biofuel-related problem, even though I often have a tank of fuel for several months (campervan).

      Regards,

      Roland

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    • September 9, 2016 at 4:01 pm
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      Super unleaded is produced to BS7800 and has no provision for bio ethanol content.

      In a carburetted engine, it may be possible to advance the timing to take advantage of greater knock resistance and calorific value. Failing that, if it has electronic ignition, it may be possible to still obtain a performance chip is is bespokely optimised for super unleaded.

      Reply
      • September 13, 2016 at 3:03 pm
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        Actually, super unleaded can have bio ethanol content. That is how Greenergy who supply Tesco, Asda, Morrisons etc (I think) use ethanol.

        My error was there is no current directive to include bio ethanol in super unleaded.

        Currently I use Jet which I believe comes exclusively from the Humberside refinery. It is 4-7 pence per litre cheaper than BP or Esso and I’m not paying 10 pence per litre more for Shell at the local major routes service station.

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:21 am
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    Hello just brought used car. It’s Ford Fiesta 1.4 zetec Automatic. I’m confusing what type of petrol in this car? It say petrol 95 supreme. Well? Is it unleaded? Why say supreme?
    And what type of oil, anti freeze etc. Please let me know ASAP. Thanks

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    • February 24, 2016 at 8:38 am
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      Assuming you’re in the UK, any type of unleaded petrol should be fine. The number 95 refers to the octane or ‘RON’ rating, you’ll sometimes see this on petrol pumps. Standard unleaded petrol in the UK is 95 RON and should be ok with your car.

      Reply
  • March 21, 2016 at 12:20 am
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    is it okay to use shell v-power on my mercedes w115 200 1971? btw, v-power in indonesia is ron 95.

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  • April 20, 2016 at 7:49 pm
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    Local garages where I live in Scotland report a lot of problems with biofuels for both classic and modern vehicles. Problems are listed on Forecourt trader.co.uk It looks as though the problems may not be too bad with the 5% biodiesel but will increase when this is doubled and more if we head up to US levels. Is there a way of finding filling stations that sell non-bio fuels?

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    • April 21, 2016 at 8:09 am
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      As far as I know all road fuels have to include a certain percentage of biofuels by law. I’m not sure if there are any exceptions to this requirement.

      To be fair, from what I’ve heard, modern vehicles only usually have biofuel-related problems if the fuel is stored for a long period, either in a garage storage tank or the vehicle’s tank. Fresh fuel used in a reasonable timeframe doesn’t usually seem to cause problems.

      I guess old fuel may be more likely to be a problem in rural areas, with local garages selling low volumes of fuel.

      Reply
  • April 29, 2016 at 4:05 pm
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    Hi Roland i have a mini countryman 1.6 s 2016 which is the best unleaded fuel to use …very confused so many say use 98 ron ans some say use 95 ron …please help thanks

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    • April 29, 2016 at 4:47 pm
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      Steven, your car’s manual should state if MINI recommend 98 ron, but if not it will be fine with both types of unleaded. Some people find that super unleaded (98 RON) provides improved performance or fuel consumption. Some people don’t see any difference.

      It’s up to you! Hope this helps.

      Roland

      Reply
  • June 17, 2016 at 11:25 am
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    Last week i filled my M G A Twin cam with at the BP 95 & after a few miles the car started to missfire badly & ran very rough & eventually refused to run .As i was going to france next day i chose to take another car i filled my M G C with 95 B P & after 5 miles the car started to missfire badly . I think it is a fuel problem, As at Dover i put 20 litres of PB98 & the car ran fine What do you think?

    Reply
  • November 13, 2016 at 9:28 am
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    what about hydrogen fuel and electric ? why you are add hydrogen fuel and elecric cars in this list ?

    Reply

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