What powers what: A guide to fuel

Posted by: Cal on 17/06/2014

Category: General

Unless you're the proud owner of a fancy shiny new car with brand new 4x4 tyres, you probably don't put too much thought into the fuel you fill your car up with. You likely reach for the standard 91 regular unleaded petrol that you were taught to use when you drove as a teen. You've probably always used it. 

However, it's always handy to know a little bit more about the various fuels out there, particularly if you end up driving somebody else's vehicle or buying a new car that requires something else. 

Remember, petrol is rated using a Research Octane Number (RON), which indicates with what level of ease fuel is ignited in the engine. The higher the number, the better performance tends to be in most cases, unless a car isn't designed for higher-octane petrol. The RON number of a given fuel will be indicated at your petrol pump.

Here's a guide to some of the common fuels around and when they come in handy.

Regular unleaded petrol

This is the most common type of petrol out there for passenger cars, according to the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV). It was introduced into the motor vehicle world in order to reduce the issues that were being faced with traditional leaded fuel and to reduce emissions from the exhaust. 

Regular unleaded petrol tends to be RON 91 or 92. 

Premium unleaded petrol

These days, it's being recommended that many more vehicles opt to use premium unleaded petrol, which tends to give better car performance. If your vehicle needs this kind of fuel, it will be indicated in the fuel filler cap or owner's manual. If your manufacturer says to use premium unleaded, don't risk opting for the regular variety. Make sure you stick to the rules on this one!

Many new vehicles, particularly European cars or high-performance models, will require this form of petrol. 

Premium unleaded petrol usually has a RON of 95 or 96, although some are marked at up to 98 or higher, claiming they can help to clean vehicle engines. 


Some passengers cars are designed to run on diesel, while more trucks, motor bikes and larger vehicles tend to necessitate this form of fuel. 

Diesel often offers users good fuel economy so the owner of the car will have to purchase less of it, but it also creates more greenhouse gas emissions. Often, diesel powered cars are often a more expensive initial investment.

There's also premium diesel available, which much like with premium petrol, can help to clean the engine and improve efficiency further. 

Hybrid and green cars

There has been a surge in eco-friendlier cars as more people become increasingly environmentally conscious around the world.

Hybrid vehicles use two power sources to drive a car, with the combination of a combustion engine that runs on petrol and a motor that runs on electricity. This helps to limit any one car's overall carbon emissions and fuel costs. Electricity can be garnered from sustainable forms of power, such as solar, making it better for the environment.

While more people are looking into this form of technology, the industry still has a way to go in order to provide the necessary infrastructure to support a bigger uptake of these vehicles.

Want to know a fun fact? Celebrities like George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz all opt to drive some of the most environmentally friendly cars out there because they believing in reducing cars' environmental impact. Act like some of your favourite stars and follow in their footsteps - or their car tyre tracks - with an eco conscious vehicle.