Tesco launches high octane fuel


Tesco is in the process of rolling out a new 99 octane petrol -- PH has tried it and it seems to work.

Made by petroleum wholesaler and blender Greenergy Fuels, which specialises in 'green' fuels, the new petrol is already being sold in a handful of Tesco forecourts up and down the country but the number is expanding all the time, according to Greenergy boss Andrew Owens.

It's designed to compete directly with Shell Optimax and BP's Ultimate. A Tesco spokeswoman said that it fitted in with Tesco's strategy of selling goods at the value end and at the high end. However, Owens also said that Tesco plans to sell 99 for a premium of 4p/litre over its standard fuel -- about half the premium charged by Shell and BP for their equivalents.

It's also set up to be in line with Government policy of increasing the amount of bio-ethanol in petrol with the aim of reducing harmful emissions -- Tesco 99 is five per cent bio-ethanol.

We tested it

PH went to Prodrive's Warwickshire test facility near Kenilworth to check out the company's claims -- which are undetailed -- that the petrol offers more grunt than standard petrol. Just how much more, Owens wouldn't say. "Testing costs a lot and there's no baseline petrol to compare it to as they're all different," he said. "It's just better."

This sounded amazingly vague, so with BS detectors on full alert, we thraped a pair of Subaru Imprezas and a pair of Ford Fiesta STs round the test track. One of the Scoobies was filled with 97RON fuel -- the minimum recommended by Subaru -- and the other with Tesco 99, while one of the STs was brimmed with 95RON, the other with Tesco 99.

It was a blind test -- we didn't know which car had which fuel, yet your reporter was able to distinguish between them by their performance alone.

The main effect was increased low-down torque. While we had no measuring equipment, the 99-filled Fiesta would spin its front wheels exiting corners under power at the same point on the lap where the other didn't; it also felt more torquey. With the Scoobies, the difference was less marked -- as you'd expect given the lesser difference between the two fuels in the two cars. However, it did feel more perky in the lower end of the rev range, before the turbo kicked in, and we were consistently travelling slightly more quickly at the end of the main straight.

The conclusion you’d have to draw is that a high performance car will experience less improvement using Tesco 99 as it's more likely to be running on a higher octane fuel anyway. But all modern cars with an anti-knock sensor and electronic ignition management should be able to benefit from it, according to Owens, not least because it also contains engine cleaning agents similar to those in Optimax.

So if your car needs high octane fuel, your wallet could benefit from using 99 too.

Photos by Angus Taylor

Comments (44) Join the discussion on the forum

  • bjwoods 14 Nov 2005

    My Griff 500 loved this,,,,, very smooooooth.

    strange thing is it hated optimax, kept stalling (whilst changing gear - stalling 4th to 5th on a motorway, pretty frightening ), until completely filled up on normal 97 unleaded.

    Got 5p a litre of voucher from spending over £50 on a weekly shop as well.


    >> Edited by bjwoods on Monday 14th November 11:47

  • Beefmeister 14 Nov 2005

    My RX7 has a full tank of this stuff, and its brilliant.

    Smoother than Optimax, more power, fantastic.

    And cheaper too!!!!

  • fwdracer 14 Nov 2005

    Be interested to see the claims verified on an engine dyno. For race series bound by sporting and technical regulations to use pump fuel, Optimax has been the benchmark to date.

    The concept of paying less to go faster isn't lost on a club racer like myself....!

  • davejw 14 Nov 2005

    All sounds great, even if you don't associate Supermarket Petrol with High Performance motoring and probably worth a try although the lack of scientific test results or long-term engine use and tear-down inspections do make me think twice.

    Remeber back in the 90's when Shell brought out an 'Ultra' type fuel (the name escapes me)? It was claimed to give more power and with it's special blend of detergents, was also supposed to return your engine valves to an 'as new condition'. Then, after a few months and several burned valves later, the petrol was withdrawn and it was some years before Shell introduced Optimax as an performance enhancing brand. While Optimax seems to have a pretty good reputation, why do we always assume other brands such as this one from Tesco, is going to be better just because it has a higher octane rating? What else is going on with the fuel that they can make it superior to others and sell it at a cheaper price?

    IF it works, I'll be using it though!



  • alaws 14 Nov 2005

    Tesco have a 25% stake in Greenenergy Fuels. This Company imports bio-ethanol from Brazil to blend with its 95 and 99 octane petrol sold in the South East. How green is shipping the bio-ethanol from Brazil to its Thames estuary plant, one wonders?!
    Tesco also adds 5% Bio-diesel to its Tesco diesel. Tesco is doing this for commercial reasons, not for environmental reasons as Tesco receives a grant from the Government to add 5% Bio-fuel to all of its Diesel and to petrol sold in the South East. No wonder the big boys - BP, ESSO, Shell and Texaco are up in arms over Tesco's "subsidy" from the Government!

    >> Edited by alaws on Monday 14th November 12:17

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