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Recent market research has revealed that more than half of Shell customers spend more than a fifth of their outgoings on fuel. With such a considerable outlay it’s no surprise that value for money is a must: fuel quality is very important to Shell customers.

The research also showed that respondents rated the quality of Shell fuels very highly. That’s good news for Shell, but it hasn’t come about by chance – a lot of work goes into the development of Shell fuels. Johanne Smith is a Fuels Scientist; her role focuses on the successful deployment of new Shell fuels.

This process starts by talking to customers and understanding what they want from their fuel, which then becomes the brief for scientists and engineers to begin developing and testing new formulas. “It’s just like making a cake,” says Johanne. “Adding ingredients to get the right mixture that works at the heart of the engine to improve engine efficiency. Special detergents and Shell Efficiency Improvers are examples of ingredients that help improve energy efficiency.”

It’s a long and complex process that can take a number of years from the initial idea to actual deployment. The team starts off with simple experiments in the lab and then, as the fuel formulations become more successful, the scale of the testing expands from test tubes to bench engine tests, vehicle testing and then on-road testing and market trials. “It’s very rewarding to see ideas come to life,”says Johanne.

Chief Scientist for Mobility Wolfgang Warnecke knows this all too well. Based at the PAE laboratories in Hamburg, he’s spent the last 20 years leading the development of Shell fuels and lubricants, often working with leading car manufacturers from across Europe. For example, Shell Optimax, the company’s first premium fuel, was the result of an early collaboration with Volkswagen in the 1990s.

We want to encourage customers to try it for themselves and incorporate driving tips to get the most out of it. Shell V-Power grew out of Shell’s partnership with the Ferrari Formula One team. “I’m not an innovator who sits in a lab and develops an idea on his own,” says Wolfgang. “We have to work in partnership. None of us can do it alone.”

A special race blend of Shell V-Power Diesel and GTL fuel was developed for Audi and powered the Audi R10 TD1 to a win at Le Mans in 2006 – the first for a diesel. As a result of this work, maximum power can now be achieved from GTL fuel, which is produced at Pearl GTL in Qatar for blending in low concentrations with regular diesel. Wolfgang’s latest achievement is Shell FuelSave, the company’s most efficient fuel to date. Shell FuelSave is now available in 15 markets globally and is designed to help customers save fuel at no extra cost.

“We want to encourage customers to try it for themselves and incorporate driving tips to get the most out of it,” says Johanne. “The key message is that there are fuels out there that are designed to save fuel at no extra cost at the forecourt.”

Ten out of ten for customer satisfaction? With Johanne and Wolfgang working behind the scenes, Shell won’t be resting on its laurels.