A change to premium fuel can reduce consumption and extend service intervals
Okay, so we know that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. But, when it comes to BP Ultimate diesel, there are genuine savings to be made that are qualified by real-time testing. But first, a bit of recent fuel history.
The Australian market was far slower than that of Europe to embrace the change from petrol to diesel as a fuel of choice for passenger cars. Much of the hesitancy was due to the higher sulphur content of the distillate available in this country, which could lead to premature wear rates, but the early adoption of diesel by the Europeans was also driven hard by the high basic price of fuel.
The reduction of sulphur in distillate in the Australian market saw the introduction of a broader range of passenger cars and SUVs as engine life could be extended to more acceptable levels. It also enabled the medium and heavy truck engine manufacturers to move to electronic injection systems, rather than the mechanical fuel pumps of earlier engine designs. The sudden increase in fuel pricing actually assisted manufacturers to make the diesel engine a more attractive proposition, as vehicle owners sought out the best options when it came to fuel economy.
Fast forward to today, and the improved quality of fuel with the reduction in sulphur, the introduction of high pressure injection systems such as common-rail designs and finer micron fuel filters have made the diesel engine applicable for all forms of transport, no matter their size.
Taking the quest for improved fuel economy further brings in the need to keep injection systems cleaner to facilitate the higher injection pressures. Good combustion depends on clean injector nozzles that in turn provide an optimised spread pattern inside the cylinder to give a cleaner fuel burn and subsequently reduce emissions.
BP Ultimate diesel is specially formulated to help clean injectors and subsequently maintain the best fuel spray pattern to give the most efficient and complete combustion, which in turn leads to good fuel economy. There are also gains for a fleet operator and private buyer in being able to extend oil drain intervals because of the reduction in contamination of the engine oil. Meanwhile, the environment benefits from the reduction in emissions.
Proving any benefit from a change in the formulation of a particular fuel demands extensive testing that is not affected by the variables of driver ability, traffic flows and other aspects.
BP makes the claim that Ultimate diesel not only keeps injector nozzles cleaner, it actually acts to remove existing deposit formation that has built up during the life of the engine. As the fuel system improves in cleanliness, the fuel consumption reduces, together with emissions at the tail pipe.
BP makes a fairly conservative claim that by using Ultimate diesel the fuel economy improvement that can be reasonably expected averages up to 2.6 percent improvement. Delivery magazine ran its own test over a two-month period using a two-year old diesel-engined vehicle on its fleet that had completed 46,000 km, all of which were from operating on longer distance runs, each of around 1000-1600 km per trip.
With two years of solid fuel consumption data already documented that gave a catalogued average fuel economy, the vehicle was switched to operate on BP Ultimate for a two-month trial covering 6000 km.
Once committed to running on BP Ultimate distillate, the fuel economy improved with a reduction of consumption of 6.25 percent. The engine also appeared to be slightly smoother in response, holding a higher gear for longer than usual at low revs before shifting to a lower gear when under load. These improvements have remained in place, indicating a very robust result.
It’s one thing to find fuel savings available when operating diesel-engined passenger cars, but those cost savings pale in significance when you start evaluating what benefits might exist for a national heavy-vehicle transport fleet.
Leading Australian transport operator, Lindsay Bros Transport, established a test regime that centred on a three-month trial comparing two identically specified Western Star prime movers hauling B-double combinations over the same route, one using BP Ultimate, the other using standard distillate.
Both trucks had been running over the same route at similar loading for 12 months before the trial, creating a benchmark for the testing. The three-month comparison resulted in a recognised fuel saving of 3.5 percent, and at the end of the trial period both returned to using normal fuel and the benefit disappeared.
Nick Lindsay, of Lindsay Transport Brothers, explained to Delivery that although Ultimate diesel comes with a price premium, the savings outweigh the costs.
“The big thing for us was the savings in emissions. It is more environmentally friendly and we want to give more back to our customers. Our overheads are fixed and we can’t be more competitive, but we can be smarter. In one year we will save 4,000 tonnes of CO2. Our fleet uses 50 million litres of fuel each year, so by working smarter we can lessen the environmental impact,” said Nick.
When it comes to the reduction of carbon emissions, the seemingly conservative 2.6 percent improvement suggested by BP equates to a hypothetical truck fleet on the same journey using 1,000,000 litres of fuel and emitting 2,698 tonnes of carbon being reduced to a fuel use of 974,000 litres and the emission of 2,628 tonnes of carbon. This represents a fuel savings of 26,000 litres of fuel and reduced emissions of 70 tonnes of carbon.
Over the life of the engine running on BP Ultimate diesel, it would appear that because of the cleaning agent included in the fuel recipe that injectors will remain cleaner and fuel burn will be more efficient. Taking this evaluation further, and it is reasonable to expect oil contamination within the engine to reduce and fuel systems as well as storage tanks to also remain cleaner.
It’s one thing for a private motorist to benefit from technology gains, but it’s particularly relevant for a fleet operator to consider what happens beyond the bowser. Reductions in emissions benefit the whole community; reductions in running costs show attention to detail can pay dividends.