Turbocharged cars and the ever-lasting bad fuel problem
Turbocharged cars - known for running devices called 'turbochargers' to boost engine performance - have seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. Veteran and new car owners alike are steadily shifting to turbo models over non-turbo ones, but with the shift in popularity comes a glaring issue: fuel quality.
While fuel quality is an important part of running any automobile, it is especially important for a turbocharged car due to the specific requirements and demands put on the engine. Let us take a closer look at how popular turbocharged cars are in Bangladesh and how bad fuel is affecting turbocharged car owners.
How popular are turbocharged cars?
A turbocharger is a device installed as a part of an engine that is powered by the force of exhaust gas. The job of a turbocharger is to compress more air into the engine's cylinders. As a result, an increased amount of air allows more fuel to be added to the engine. Thus, the engine can produce more power by consuming less fuel. Since turbocharged engines are dependent on a precise balance of fuel and air for optimum combustion, fuel quality often becomes the most important factor behind properly running a turbocharged car.
According to the market research organisation Mordor Intelligence, 50% of the gasoline-powered cars sold all over the world in the forecast period of 2023-2028 may have turbochargers, and similar growth is expected to continue. Because of changes in legislation all around the world, car manufacturers are motivated to produce more turbocharged cars. These cars can produce more power while consuming less fuel and emitting fewer pollutants - making them an easy choice to consider for potential new car buyers.
Momin Uzzaman, Manager of Sales at DHS Motors, shared his opinion on why car manufacturers are focusing on producing more turbocharged cars. "The main reason is to downsize engines. For example, previously, the Honda CR-V had a 2.4-litre engine. It produced 136 horsepower. By improving technology, the engine size was decreased to 2.0 litres. It then produced 152 horsepower. Now, by adding a turbocharger, the Honda CR-V can produce 192 horsepower from its 1.5-litre engine," he shares
So, what are the benefits of having a turbocharged car? According to Momin, a turbocharged car has two main benefits. Firstly, the car is more fuel-efficient. Secondly, the cc (cubic centimetre) of the engine is decreased, which necessitates paying less tax and duty. When it comes to popularity, Momin adds that because of lower prices, turbocharged cars have gained a lot of popularity in Bangladesh. "By adding turbochargers, the engine size is decreased to 1500 cc, compared to 2000 cc and 2400 cc engines previously. Therefore, less duty and tax need to be paid to the government. As a result, these cars are getting wide acceptance."
While less duty charge is among the top reasons, some other factors behind the recently widened acceptance of turbocharged cars are their fun-to-drive features, efficiency, lower price, the need of paying less AIT and of course, attractive looks. For the past couple of years, the road structures in Bangladesh have improved, which has made driving for both new drivers and veterans a more pleasing experience, with turbocharged cars enhancing the experience even more.
Fuel quality in Bangladesh and the consequences
While it's true that turbocharged cars are being bought more locally, the undeniable fact remains that turbocharged cars require good-quality fuel to operate. For example, a 10th-generation Honda Civic requires a minimum of RON 91-rated fuel. This is because a turbocharger raises high pressure inside its engine cylinders. Therefore, the fuel should have less tendency to prematurely detonate before reaching the optimal ignition point. As only good fuel has this desired feature, it's natural for turbo owners to want high-quality fuel. Sadly, many turbocharged car users are unsatisfied with the fuel quality available in Bangladesh.
When asked about the local availability of good fuel, Saiful Osman, the executive director of Sadi Filling Station Ltd, said that it is difficult to tell if filling stations receive a supply of good fuel or not. "But it is possible to get good fuel if no mixing, tempering, or adulteration is made," he adds. Both turbocharged and non-turbocharged cars regularly refuel at Sadi Filling Station Ltd.
In social media platforms, especially local Facebook groups about cars and car owners, issues related to bad fuel quality are discussed almost every day. What is the main cause behind this bad fuel? According to Saiful, because of adulteration and the mixing of low-grade gasoline and condensate, fuel quality is ultimately reduced. Many filling stations do not clean their fuel reservoir tanks regularly, which also reduces the quality of fuel supplied to car users.
"Approximately 10-15 cars have issues related to bad fuel, out of the 40-45 cars that come to our service centre every week," adds Saiful, who is also the CEO of a car service centre named iWorksBD. Quick maths will show that nearly 30% of the problematic cars that come to his service centre face fuel-related problems. While this figure will vary across different service centres, it still gives a bad impression about the quality of fuel that we normally get.
We also asked Momin about how they are handling fuel-related issues since they mainly sell turbocharged cars to their customers. According to his response, they take samples of fuel from different fuel stations every 3-4 months, after which they test the samples. After getting results, they suggest their customers take fuel from filling stations that ensure quality.
Despite getting bad fuel, people are not stopping buying turbocharged cars. But at the end of the day, turbocharged cars cannot run efficiently if good fuel is not provided. For example, a turbocharged car's engine may make knocking sounds and jerk if it gets bad fuel.
So, is there a solution? Can ECU (Electric Control Unit) reprogramming be conducted on turbocharged cars so that they do not require a higher RON-rated fuel? Saiful answered, "I am not sure if it will work or not. But I know of an authorised car dealer who reprogrammed some of their cars' ECUs - which still did not provide any benefit. Their cars still have many troubles and low fuel efficiency."
Saiful shares some tricks and tips for turbocharged car users: "Try to be careful so that you do not fill up your car with bad fuel. Use good-quality air filters and engine oil. Engine oil must be authentic, and it should have the specification 'API SP' or 'API SN PLUS'. Change the oil within the interval of 3,000 kilometres."
Sadly, there is no permanent solution if your car regularly suffers because of bad fuel. Many use octane boosters and other additives, but these do not solve the problems long-term. The only solution is to use high-quality fuel, which we do not get on a regular basis. All we can do is take feedback from fellow turbocharged car users about where they refuel regularly. Fuel system service can also be conducted more frequently. Additionally, carbon cleaning can help reduce carbon deposits created from unburned fuel during the combustion procedure.