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Selda Gunsel, chief technology officer and executive vice-president of technology at the Shell Group, stands next to a Ferrari in Maranello, Italy.Supplied

Even as more drivers make the switch to electric vehicles, gas-powered cars are going to be on the road for quite some time to come – a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of fossil fuel giant Shell PLC.

“Ninety per cent of the transport sector today is still fuelled by oil products,” said Selda Gunsel, chief technology officer and executive vice-president of technology at Shell. “Of course, over time, this 90 per cent will be reduced, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

The company predicts that internal combustion engines in advanced forms or in combination with e-motors like hybrids will be around long enough that there’s room to improve the fuels that power them.

With that in mind, the company is introducing a new, high-grade premium gasoline dubbed Shell V-Power Nitro+. Tested in Ferrari Formula 1 cars, the new formulation has been designed to remove more gunk from car engines and keep fuel injectors cleaner. As of May 6, the new gasoline is available at 1,400 Shell stations across Canada.

The company says its V-Power Nitro+ road gasoline contains 99 per cent of the same compounds found in the racing fuel used in Ferrari cars on the F1 circuit.

Shell scientists say the new gasoline improves an engine’s performance and delivers more power, better fuel efficiency and faster acceleration. It also creates a protective barrier against gunk, wear, corrosion and friction on critical engine components, they say.

The fuel is designed to work with older engines and new gasoline direct-injection engines. According to Gunsel, 70 per cent of new cars in the United States have direct fuel-injection engines and more than half of Canadian cars will use this technology by 2026.

Mechanic Lou Trottier suggested the new gunk-fighting formula might prove useful because of the fuel-injection trend.

“The problem with direct-injected vehicles is that the intake valve gets filled with carbon. That carbon build-up really causes a fair amount of problems as the vehicle ages, especially in Audis and BMWs,” said Trottier, a Globe Drive contributor and owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga.

Trottier said he often sees this problem in high-end European vehicles at his shop. The solution? Decarbonization, a $500 procedure that injects chemicals into the engine to soften the carbon so it can be flushed out.

“Normally when we do this service on the car, everybody calls me back and says ‘This thing drives like it did when it was new.’” Trottier said.

“This specific fuel is designed to deal with vehicles that have this build-up problem, which would be most high-end European cars … If I were driving a Ferrari or a high-end Porsche, I would be searching out this fuel,” he said.

As for why it happens with high-end European cars, Trottier said the subject is widely debated, but two leading theories are drivers “cheating” and using mid-grade or regular fuel instead of the recommended premium grade and longer oil-change intervals, even though they are within the manufacturer’s specifications.

When it comes to fuels, Shell’s association with the Scuderia Ferrari team is one of the longest running in Formula 1 history.

“What we learn from the extreme conditions on the track we apply to developing our fuels,” said Kent Martin, general manager of Shell Mobility Canada.

While Shell tests its fuels at excessive speeds on the track, the company also tests in punishing temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celcius.

“Testing in Canada is almost like being in the motorsport circle. You have extreme conditions – not necessarily extreme hot temperatures, but extreme low temperatures – which put a lot of stress on fluids, whether it’s fuel or lubricants,” said Gunsel.

A small number of reporters got to test the Shell V-Power Nitro+ fuel while driving a Ferrari 296 GTB, Ferrari’s second plug-in hybrid, at the Fiorano circuit, a private racetrack owned by Ferrari in Maranello, Italy. Sure, the car’s a speed demon – quick, nimble, well-planted – and it can stop on a dime. But after 16 laps, I couldn’t tell the difference between this fuel and another.

Trottier said most drivers wouldn’t be able to discern a difference in such a short space of time. The new formulation is designed to help a vehicle over the long run, he said.

Besides the promise of greater corrosion protection and friction protection, Shell says there are fuel economy benefits, too. While the numbers could vary, depending on the vehicle, engine type, engine age and driving style, in lab tests there was a 3-per-cent improvement in fuel economy compared with the main grade of fuel, according to Gunsel.

Besides Ferrari, Shell works with automakers such as Stellantis, General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW and emerging Chinese automakers like BYD. Recognizing that change is coming to the transportation sector, Shell USA recently acquired EV charging and outdoor digital advertising company Volta Media for approximately US$169-million. With the acquisition came more than 3,000 EV charge points, making Shell one of the largest public EV charging network owners in the United States. Today, Shell operates more than 140,000 public and private charge points around the world and aims to expand its EV charging to more than 500,000 charge points by 2025 and 2.5 million by 2030 globally.

Gunsel said that Shell, which operates 46,000 fuel stations and serves 32 million customers a day, “has the infrastructure and the real estate” to leverage and build EV chargers and hubs.

“We are trying to leverage our global expertise and footprint to do whatever is needed to meet our customer needs.”

The writer was a guest of Shell. Content was not subject to approval.

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