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French Fuels

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Mike Fishwick View Drop Down
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Joined: 04 Aug 2006
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    Posted: 19 Jun 2020 at 4:07pm

Assuming that you can get to France this summer, you will often find a bewildering array of pump fuel available.  These days we are all used to unleaded petrol in 98 octane, as well as 95 and 95 e10 varieties.  Remember that ‘e10’ fuels should not be used in BMW engines built before 1986, or poor fuel consumption, deterioration of plastics, and starting problems will occur.

Even small rural supermarkets offer 98 octane of a quality which provides far better fuel consumption than the much vaunted Shell V-Power -  avoid it like le plague!  I find that Total Excellium 98 octane gives the best performance in terms of steady-state fuel consumption in my Z3.

So far so good, but you should be aware of 95 octane e85 petrol, often labelled as ‘Super Ethanol.’  This fuel contains a minimum of 85% ethanol, this proportion sometimes being far higher.  For this reason the pump carries a red nozzle, and a warning that it should only be used in engines specifically designed for its use.  On no account must it be used in ‘normal’ engines.

We also often find diesel fuel in ‘standard’ and ‘super’ varieties, the better fuel (such as Total Excellium diesel) performing well in older engines which have a higher compression ratio – typically above 19:1.  It does not make much difference in later engines with lower compression ratios, this change having taken place to reduce diesel knock at low speeds on a cold engine. 

A further diesel permutation, often seen in rural France, is a pump with a red nozzle labelled ‘GNR,’ or Gazole non Routier, which is considerably cheaper than any other fuel. This fuel is provided for non-road vehicles such as agricultural vehicles etc, and its use requires that the customer fills in an identity form before use.

In areas frequented by truck drivers etc (autoroute service areas etc)  you will also find a blue pump dispensing AdBlue diesel additive, which is required by legislation to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide.

So – before filling up in France, do not become mesmerised by a possible number of seven pumps, and make sure that you will be using the correct fuel, rather than by simply grabbing the usual colour of nozzle . . .

A Z3 is not just for Christmas - it's for life!
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