Can Fuel Additives Improve Your ROI?

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Formulated fuels contain additives that help prevent carbon deposits, protect against corrosion, and provide protection against friction. Photo: Shutterstock

If there were a fuel additive that could ultimately reduce operating costs for your fleet, would you be interested in it? What if it could reduce maintenance costs or reduce your downtime? While many fleet managers would be willing to take a look at such an additive, they might wonder if the return on investment makes sense.

“While I think fuel additives do possibly have some benefit, I think that in a fleet environment, the return on investment doesn’t add up,” explains Grant Chitty, Account Manager for Foss National / LeasePlan Canada. “By the time any of those additives would have applied any value in terms of a return on investment, the vehicle is past the point when it should have been [remarketed] and moved on.”

In other words, fleet vehicles serve a very specific purpose and they’re in service for a predetermined amount of time.

During their lifecycle, any extra spent on additives needs to be justified by simple math: Is it worth paying X amount of dollars for an additive to get Y amount of savings? And if the cost is justified, is there proof that the additive in question will deliver the promised benefits?

“Will it be worthwhile spending $200, for example, to put in a fuel additive,” Chitty asks rhetorically. “Are you going to get $200 worth of savings? Probably not. I can almost guarantee you that you’re not going to get better performance out of it. Not during the lifetime that the vehicle should be left in service where you’re going to get the best return on investment from that asset.”

At the pump

While aftermarket additives might not make sense for fleets, purchasing fuel at the pump with additives might not be a bad idea.

Today, fuel is no longer just fuel. Instead, it’s a cocktail of chemicals that includes the gasoline itself, along with detergents, corrosion inhibitors, solvents and other proprietary ingredients.

Every fuel supplier has its own secret blend, and whether you buy regular or premium gasoline for your vehicles makes a difference in the amount of “special sauce” added into the mix.

“We develop fully formulated fuels,” explains Sarina Arnold, Senior Engineer, Fuels Technology, Shell Global Solutions. “This means that when you go to a Shell gas station you don’t have to worry about purchasing a bottle of XYZ to put into your tank. The fuel contains a proprietary additive formulation, which is not for sale. You cannot buy it anywhere—it is included in the fuel.”

Arnold explains that fuel scientists, like herself, determine the exact amount of each additive necessary. “So you’re not going to worry about buying a bottle and then wondering how much you should add,” she says.

More importantly, since the formula for each fuel grade is carefully calculated, Arnold says that adding anything extra simply doesn’t make sense. “We don’t support using aftermarket additive products for fuels, simply because if you think about formulating a fuel, it’s almost like preparing a really tasty spaghetti sauce that your grandma makes,” she says. “She has a really nice recipe, it tastes amazing, so you’re not going to add ketchup to the sauce, because you’ll ruin it. That’s exactly the science behind fuels formulation.”

Benefits of formulation at the pump

Formulated fuels contain additives that help prevent carbon deposits, protect against corrosion, and protect against friction. However, the grade of gasoline you purchase makes a difference.

“When you purchase Shell-branded fuels, the additive is the same in all grades,” Arnold explains. “What differentiates the grades is the concentration of the additives. We put a higher amount of additives into our premium fuel, while the bronze and silver get a lower concentration.”

In other words, you really do get what you pay for at the pump. The higher-grade fuels not only have higher levels of octane but higher amounts of additives as well. “You’re paying for the added benefits of protection against friction and wear that you will not get entirely with the bronze and silver, because those have lower concentrations,” Arnold adds.

The bottom line when it comes to fuel additives is that they’re simply not recommended if you’re already investing in the right fuel at the pump, Arnold explains.

“Anything you need to physically add into your tank, we don’t recommend,” she concludes. “We don’t think it is needed if you use our Shell fuel. If you use other fuels, I don’t know. I can’t comment on that. But if you use our fully formulated Shell fuel, it already contains the right proportion of all those components. So you don’t need to worry about adding anything to your tank.”


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