Many gasoline companies add something special to their "secret" gasoline formula to draw more customers to their gas pumps. The companies claim their "secret" ingredient will make driving smoother and is better for your car.
Additives are included in gasoline formulas to increase octane ratings. High octane ratings increase performance in the engine. According to HowStuffWorks.com, usually, high octane fuels are used in high-compression engines with a lot of horse power, like in high performance engines.
Low octane rating gasoline in an engine can cause knocking, which means the gasoline ignites due to the compression in the engine rather than from the spark in the spark plug, reports HowStuffWorks.com. Engine knocking can cause mild damage or lead to destroying the vehicle's engine.
The first additive used in gasoline was tetraethyl lead during WWI. The compound, made of lead, increased octane ratings for cheap gasoline. However, according to Slate.com, the tetraethyl lead was a disaster, leaving behind a cloud of lead everywhere it went. In the 1970s, the EPA forced companies to reduce the use of lead; by 1996, lead was banned from being used in gasoline, reported Slate.com.
Companies also add oxygenates to gasoline for a cleaner burn. According to the American Petroleum Institute, oxygenates reduce tailpipe emissions and make the gasoline comply with the oxygen requirements outlined in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
Check out these additives different companies add to your gas and what they really do:
Used as an oxygenate in gasoline, methyl tertiary butyl ether, is used by refiners because it easily blends with gasoline. Even though MTBE isn't that harmful to air quality, it tends to blend easily into ground water. According to the EPA, even low levels of MTBE can make water undrinkable because of its taste and odor. Some tests on animals have shown that MTBE is carcinogenic, but it is unclear how it affects humans. MTBE is banned in California.
The alcohol-based fuel, made by fermenting and distilling starch crops, is an alternative gasoline additive to MTBE. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ethanol has lower emissions of air pollutants, is more resistant to engine knock and has a very small added vehicle cost. Ethanol, however, has lower energy content, meaning it has fewer miles per gallon. This additive is used in California gasoline.
This element is added to gasoline by Shell to act as an engine detergent. According to HowStuffWorks.com, Shell claims nitrogen-enriched gasoline interacts with the carbon buildup in the engine and cleans the valves, maximizing gasoline and air compression within the cylinder. The EPA requires that gasoline has some sort of additives and detergents, but Shell's gasoline exceeds "Top Tier" gasoline detergent standards, which is a voluntary standard, HowStuffWorks.com reports.
Chevron patented this polyether amine mixture to add to their gasoline as a detergent. Techron is designed to keep the engine clean and reduce tailpipe emissions, according to Chevron.com. The EPA has classified Chevron's gasoline as exceeding "Top Tier" gasoline detergent standards.
The EPA outlined another six fuel oxygenates that are used in gasoline as an alternative to MTBE:
- Diisopropyl Ether (DIPE)
- Ethyl Tert-Butyl Ether (ETBE)
- Tert-Butyl Alcohol (TBA)
- Tertiary-Amyl Methyl Ether (TAME)
Read more on this oxygenates on the EPA's website