With high demand comes even higher pricing. In this case, premium gasoline is seeing a steady price separation in the U.S. over standard. Late in 2016, the difference between the U.S. average retail price for premium and regular gasoline reached 50 cents per gallon. The spread between standard and premium gas has been steadily increasing since 2000, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As of August 2016, the premium gasoline share reached a record 12 percent, the highest market share since 2004. Lower gas prices and the production of more turbocharged engines are in part to thank for the uptick in demand, encouraging a trend in premium gas sales most notably in light-duty vehicles.
In an effort to combat high prices and increase fuel economy across the board, it was reported in May that higher-octane fuels could be making their way to the U.S., citing more powerful and more fuel efficient engines. A jump to 98 octane fuel over the current 91 and 93 octane could allow for a 10 percent increase in fuel economy over the current premium offerings. One engineer even suggests going as high as 114 octane.
"Increasing octane could be the lowest-cost way to raise fuel economy," an anonymous automaker executive told The Detroit Free Press in an interview. "It costs far less than developing a new transmission, for instance."
But is the premium increase warranted? A study published back in September suggested that American motorists waste around $2.1 billion on premium fuel. After testing multiple vehicles and engines, researchers concluded that engines designed to run on standard octane fuel saw no benefits when using higher 91 and 93 octane.