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Shell V-Power challenge - Your questions answered - A chat with Shell's V-Power fuel expert David Wood

Published by Christine

Back in August, we undertook the Sidepodscience Shell V-Power Challenge, where we quite unscientifically tested the merits of premium fuels. Once complete we had a few questions we wanted to put to Shell and so did you. We compiled the best and put them to the man who walked us around the Silverstone paddock, Shell V-Power expert David Wood.

Shell V-Power expert David Wood
Shell V-Power expert David Wood

Questions from Sidepodcast

Is it true that you need to fill up with super-fuel a couple of times before you notice the difference and will it vary from car to car?

Obviously, we can’t speak for every brand of premium fuel, but I can answer for the premium fuel offering from Shell, and I’ll separate my answer into diesel and petrol. Firstly, Shell V-Power Diesel is designed to help diesel engines deliver more power, and keep on delivering that power for longer, as the miles are clocked up. Developed to benefit any diesel car, Shell V-Power Diesel is formulated to continuously clean the precision fuel injectors to enable the engine to operate at its best. The process of cleaning away diesel injector deposits, which may have been left behind by other diesel fuels, is a gradual one. There is no standard period over which this is achieved since all engines, and the amount and nature of any existing deposits, will be different.

Shell V-Power Diesel, formulated with a synthetic GTL (Gas-to-Liquids) fuel component further adds to these performance benefits in the UK and many other countries. This clear and virtually odourless synthetic fuel component has outstanding cetane quality, so that it burns more cleanly and efficiently than conventional diesel.

The powerful cleaning technology of Shell V-Power is designed to remove, and to prevent the build-up of, power-sapping fuel system deposits.

Shell V-Power (petrol) in the UK has the benefits of being formulated with powerful cleaning technology and enhanced octane quality and also contains Shell’s unique Friction Modification Technology (FMT), as used by Ferrari in Formula One. FMT is designed to help engine parts turn more freely, unlocking useful energy that would otherwise have been lost. All engines can potentially benefit from reduced friction and with Shell V-Power these benefits are designed to be effective from the first fill.

The powerful cleaning technology of Shell V-Power is designed to remove, and to prevent the build-up of, power-sapping fuel system deposits. Removal of such deposits, and realisation of the associated benefits in engine performance and responsiveness, is a gradual process, and as with diesel above, there is no standard period over which this is achieved. In the UK Shell V-Power’s enhanced octane rating of 99 RON is designed to give improved performance in many modern cars compared to lower octane fuels. In responsive vehicles the benefits of higher octane are in principle available from the first fill, as soon as the fuel reaches the engine.

Do cars with bigger/more powerful engines make better use of super-fuels?

Again, premium fuels differ from brand to brand, but Shell V-Power is designed to help petrol engines deliver their performance potential, whatever car you drive – the benefits are not limited to bigger/more powerful cars. Different vehicles will respond differently to the qualities of Shell V-Power and Shell V-Power Diesel, depending, for example, on design, maintenance, operating conditions and driving style.

Is the Shell V-Power difference more noticeable in petrol engines rather than diesel engines?

Petrol and diesel engines work on different operating principles and present different challenges to the fuels scientist, so it’s tricky to make a fair comparison in this case. In order to develop a good fuel, an intimate understanding of the operation of the engine and the interaction between the engine and the fuel is a pre-requisite. This understanding has been one of many key factors in the development of Shell V-Power and Shell V-Power Diesel, and with both fuels the core aim is to develop a fuel that helps any engine to deliver its performance potential.

Has Shell specifically designed Shell V-Power to operate in a certain performance range? It feels like BP Ultimate is more aggressive in lower gears, but Shell V-Power is smoother in all gears. Can fuels be compared in that way, and how much do you look at competitors’ products?

It is quite difficult to compare fuels in that way, and at Shell, our clear focus is on the quality and performance of our own products, making sure that they are capable of providing the performance benefits they have been designed to offer at all performance ranges. Our priority is helping our customers get the most out of the fuels they buy from us, whether that be diesel or petrol.

Is there a plan to roll out Shell V-Power to more pumps and more stations? Is it currently on trial or rather a staged rollout across the country?

Shell V-Power is available across almost all the Shell sites in the UK. Shell V-Power Diesel is available at just under two-thirds of Shell sites in the UK and the aim is to increase availability by up to 30 sites per year. In time it is our aim that all Shell forecourts in the UK will offer Shell V-Power to our customers. If you visit the Shell service station locator you can search for sites with Shell V-Power and Shell V-Power Diesel.

Is the UK ahead or behind other countries in terms of super-fuel adoption and usage?

The UK was one of the first countries to launch Shell V-Power fuels and in fact our first performance unleaded fuel was Shell Optimax which was launched in 2002. The name Optimax was then changed to Shell V-Power in 2006. Shell V-Power Diesel was launched in 2007. We are continuing to look to grow our Shell V-Power family of fuels and they can now be found in over 60 countries across the world.

Your Questions

I'm thinking of getting a scooter. Do the fancy fuels work in little tiny engines too? - Nikki, Canada

‘Fancy fuels’ or premium fuels as they are more widely known, are designed to work in a wide range of engines and vehicles, and not just high-end, high-performance cars. The technology we put into our Shell V-Power premium fuel (both diesel and gasoline) is designed to help engines deliver their performance potential, whatever vehicle you drive. Our experience of testing this technology in motorcycles has shown us that the fuel can perform very well in this environment, typified by smaller, higher speed engines. Different engines will, however, respond differently to the qualities of Shell V-Power and we encourage drivers to try it for themselves and see what difference it makes for them.

Does the same concept (of super fuels) apply to engine oil too? - Pat, UK

Essentially, the principles are the same, but there are a different set of standards to adhere to. Engine oils are designed to meet different needs depending on what vehicle you drive, and our Shell Helix brand of engine oils work in exactly this way; they are tailored to meet a variety of performance levels. The difference is that in the engine oil world there is a wide range of performance specifications managed by the industry like the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) as well as vehicle manufacturers, all of which are used to ensure that lubricant requirements are met. Both Shell Helix and Shell Helix Ultra (our top-tier engine lubricant) are developed and tested to meet the industry standard performance levels (API, ACEA, etc) plus the additional requirements of the major vehicle manufacturers. Shell Helix Ultra has also been tested and demonstrated to show superior performance in Shell’s own testing in important areas such as engine cleanliness, compared to an API SL/CF Mineral Oil.

How have Audi's efforts in sports car racing and the Le Mans 24 Hours helped towards the development of Shell V-Power Diesel? - Scott, UK

We have worked together with Audi Sport on a number of technical projects over many years including the Audi R8, the Audi R10 TDI and, in 2009, the Audi R15 TDI. Shell has used the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, one of the toughest endurance motor races in the world, to test new innovations in diesel fuel technology for potential application to the Shell V-Power Diesel road fuel that customers purchase at forecourts, to make better fuel for drivers. Our commitment to innovation through motorsport at the highest level, which extends to Formula One and beyond and the resulting innovations are integrated within our extensive Research and Development programme.

Fuel composition for a particular race must be declared well in advance of the event, and tests are carried out at the circuit to ensure the fuel used is exactly as declared.

How do they calculate the exact formula for the race fuel additives and is it done at the track during the race weekend or is it done back at the lab beforehand? - Gavin, Denmark

The precise formulations used in the Shell V-Power race fuel developed with Ferrari for Formula One races and the Shell V-Power Diesel Le Mans 24 race fuel which has successfully powered diesel cars to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the last four years, are, naturally, confidential. However, we can tell you that the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) specifications controlling the composition and properties of Formula One race fuels are amongst the most demanding in the world. Fuel composition for a particular race must be declared well in advance of the event, and tests are carried out at the circuit to ensure the fuel used is exactly as declared. Consequently, fuels are formulated, blended and transported in advance of the race.

In terms of the race weekend itself, Shell works with Ferrari closely at every Formula One Grand Prix at a designated mobile technical facility – the Shell Track Lab. This state of the art facility is where Shell fuel scientists monitor the Shell V-Power race fuel and Shell Helix Ultra racing lubricants to ensure that maximum performance and reliability are maintained within the stringent FIA specifications during the extreme conditions of Formula One racing over the race weekend. The knowledge and insight gained from the technical partnership with Ferrari is fed into our road fuel development programme and helps us to develop better fuels for better performance for our customers around the world.

What does the V stand for? - Nick, Dubai

We get asked that a lot! Surprisingly, the “V” in Shell V-Power has no particular meaning. However we researched a number of names with customers and the name V-Power was received positively by customers and they associated the name with power and performance attributes.