best fuel
3 minutes

Choosing the best fuel for your car can be a complex decision influenced by various factors, including vehicle type, performance needs, environmental impact, and cost. In this guide, we will explore the different fuel types available in the UK, their benefits, drawbacks, and how to determine the best option for your vehicle.

What types of fuels are used in the UK?

In the UK, the main types of fuel available for vehicles include petrol (gasoline), diesel, electric (battery electric vehicles or BEVs), and hybrids (both standard and plug-in hybrids or PHEVs). 

Petrol is widely available and offers good performance but has higher CO2 emissions and lower fuel efficiency. 

Diesel is more fuel-efficient and has a longer engine lifespan but emits higher levels of nitrogen oxides and particulates. 

Electric vehicles, which are gaining popularity due to their zero tailpipe emissions and lower running costs, face challenges like limited range and longer charging times. 

Hybrids combine petrol or diesel engines with electric motors, offering improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, though they can be more complex and costly to maintain. 

Additionally, biofuels like biodiesel and bioethanol, made from renewable resources, are available but less common due to limited availability and lower energy density.

As of 2020, in the UK, the vast majority of the 32.7 million licensed cars, totaling 97%, were powered by either petrol (58%) or diesel (38%). The remaining 3% utilized alternative fuels, including hybrid electric, battery electric, fuel cell, and gas.

What is an octane rating?

An octane rating is a measure of the quality or performance of gasoline (petrol) used in internal combustion engines. It indicates how well the fuel can resist knocking or pinging during combustion. The higher the octane rating, the more resistant the fuel is to premature ignition, which is important for high-performance engines or those with higher compression ratios. In practical terms, fuels with higher octane ratings are often used in sports cars and other vehicles that require better performance to prevent engine damage and ensure smooth operation.

Read more: EV vehicles versus petrol cars

Are there different types of petrol fuel available in the UK?

In the UK, the different types of petrol fuels available include:

Regular Unleaded  (95 Octane): This is the most common type of petrol used by the majority of cars on the road.

Super Unleaded (97-99 Octane): Also known as premium or high octane petrol, it offers higher octane levels suitable for high-performance or turbocharged engines.

Ethanol Blended Petrol (E5): This petrol contains up to 5% ethanol and is labeled as E5, indicating its ethanol content.

Super Ethanol (E10): This blend contains up to 10% ethanol and is increasingly becoming standard in the UK, aimed at reducing emissions.

Shell V-Power (or equivalent): A premium, high-performance petrol often marketed by specific brands, claiming enhanced cleaning properties and improved engine performance.

These types cater to different vehicle requirements, from standard commuter cars to vehicles needing higher performance or specific environmental benefits.

What grade of fuel should I use in the UK?

When deciding which grade of petrol to use, consult your vehicle’s owner manual. It will specify the recommended octane rating for optimal performance and fuel efficiency. Using a lower octane fuel than recommended can potentially lead to engine knocking and reduced performance, while using a higher octane fuel than required is generally not harmful but might not provide any additional benefits unless specified by the manufacturer.

Most petrol vehicles are designed to run on 95 octane, but others are designed to use higher octane fuel.

Is paying for premium fuel worth it?

Unless your vehicle specifically requires premium fuel or you notice a tangible improvement in performance or efficiency, sticking with the manufacturer-recommended standard unleaded petrol (95 RON) is usually sufficient and more economical.

Conclusion:

Choosing the best fuel for your car depends on your specific needs, driving habits, and environmental considerations. Petrol and diesel remain popular choices for their convenience and performance, but electric and hybrid vehicles are increasingly attractive due to their environmental benefits and lower running costs. 

Understanding the pros and cons of each fuel type can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your priorities and lifestyle. As the automotive industry continues to evolve, staying informed about advancements in fuel technology and government policies will be crucial in making the best choice for your vehicle.

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