Christopher Grundler, the office's director, discussed the idea to Automotive News. With a higher octane rating, fuel becomes less likely to pre-ignite and can withstand higher compression ratios. Such a change would theoretically allow small displacement engines to eke out even more horsepower, assuming they are engineered to take advantage of the higher-octane gasoline.
According to Grundler, any changes to standard octane levels would first require significant research. The government would need to know that the higher cost of better fuel is actually a worthwhile investment, Automotive News reports. In much of the US, regular gasoline is currently 87 octane, although it varies by region. Many modern, turbocharged engines already need at least 93 octane. For example, putting in premium allows the Ford Mustang with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder to produce its stated 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. The pony car can also run on regular in a pinch but peak power drops off.