Top Tier Gasoline pushed
By Mark Phelan
Published: Saturday, July 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Should you care how much detergent is in the gasoline you buy? How can you even tell?
Leading automakers BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen think you should care, and they want to help you find stations that sell the cleanest gas. They want some fuels certified as best for fuel economy and emissions. Not everybody's on board, though.
The automakers formed a consortium, Top Tier Gasoline, that certifies retailers as meeting their standard for detergent. Detergents prevent deposits of leftover material from building up in engines and exhaust systems. The deposits, like the crust of minerals left when hard water evaporates, can reduce fuel economy and performance.
Top Tier also certifies there are no additives that reduce catalytic converter effectiveness. Top Tier stations account for just more than half of gasoline sales.
“We strongly recommend Top Tier detergent gasoline to keep your engine clean,” GM fuel specialist Bill Studzinski said. “Fuel economy, emissions and acceleration all suffer when there are deposits in an engine.”
Just like a campfire leaves a pile of ash, burning gasoline leaves residue in an engine, said Matthew Mio, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Detroit Mercy. The residue is like the plaque that can clog your arteries. “Leaving untreated buildup reduces the efficiency of an engine over time. Detergents take the plaque away.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has required detergent in gasoline since 1995. It set the current standard, called Tier 2, in 2000. Top Tier argues that the standard is dated and insufficient for today's engines and emission systems and also for the more fuel-efficient models on the way.
“The ability of a vehicle to maintain stringent Tier 2 emission standards has been hampered, leading to engine deposits, which can have a big impact on emissions and driver satisfaction,” according to Top Tier Gas' website.
There's no independent data comparing the price of fuel at Top Tier retailers to those that don't meet the standard. GM says it hasn't found any consistent difference, and a quick survey of stations in my neighborhood supported that.
All gasoline has some detergent. Top Tier certification is the only way to know if what you're pumping meets the legal minimum or a higher standard.
The automakers who don't participate in Top Tier fuel are satisfied with the current standard.
Top Tier Gasoline measures the detergent in fuel at a lab. It also requires all grades of gasoline a retailer sells — regular, mid-grade and premium, for instance — meet the standard. That means certified gas stations can't put extra detergent only in premium in an attempt to force drivers to buy the most expensive fuel, as some others do.
Any gasoline retail group can ask Top Tier to evaluate its fuels. Many leading retailers have Top Tier certification, but many don't. They don't necessarily have less detergent, but they haven't been independently certified.
At least one company, 76 gas stations, now brags that all its gasolines exceed Top Tier's requirement.
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Employers nationwide added 175K jobs despite harsh weather
- Disney to lay off 700 from interactive unit
- Google barge departs San Francisco to new home
- Natural gas industry buoyed by advancing technology
- Alpha Natural Resources to pay record $227.5M in water pollution settlement
- Beef costs reach record amid persisting drought
- ADT settles deception charges
- Obamacare enrollment has ‘lot of ground to cover’
- PNC info sought in fraud investigation
- Federal agency demands recall data from General Motors
- Online expertise a steal