Which Engine Fuel Type Works Best For You?Aug 13rd, 2021
In the past the default engine most people think of is a gas powertrain, but that's not the only option anymore. Now affordable to everyone, here’s a look at the four basic types of powertrain available.
Internal combustion engines use gasoline and diesel, igniting to create explosions inside the engine cylinders, turning your car’s wheels. A gas engine uses spark plugs to ignite the fuel, whereas a diesel engine doesn’t need spark plugs, because diesel fuel is so combustible it ignites under the cylinder’s compression pressure on it's own.
Engines with a diesel V6 tend to be more reliable than gas V6. Diesel engine parts need to be stronger than gas because compression ignition is a more violent explosion than spark-plug ignition. Since diesel powertrain engines don’t need a spark, it also doesn’t need spark plugs, which means a simpler engine with fewer parts that might need repair in the future.
Both gasoline and diesel are used to power internal combustion engines, igniting to create explosions inside the engine cylinders and ultimately turning your car’s wheels. A gas engine uses spark plugs to ignite the fuel. A diesel engine doesn’t need spark plugs, because diesel fuel is so combustible it ignites under the cylinder’s compression pressure.
Engines like diesel V6 tend to be more reliable than their gas counterparts for a couple of reasons. First, diesel engine parts need to be stronger than gas parts because compression ignition results in a more violent explosion than one caused by spark-plug ignition. And because the diesel engine doesn’t need a spark, it also doesn’t need spark plugs, which means a simpler engine with fewer parts that might need repair.
The other big difference between diesel and gas is power. Diesel engines, especially turbodiesels, generate more torque, which is the power needed for initial acceleration or to move heavy loads. Gas engines create more horsepower, which is needed to reach top speeds and accelerate at high speeds. That being said, if you need to haul a trailer loaded with lumber, you’ll want something like the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, which can produce 910 lb-ft of torque when equipped with the available 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8. If you’re looking something more sporty with some power, you’ll want something like the gas-powered Dodge Challenger, which delivers 807 horsepower when equipped with a 6.2-liter V8.
Hybrids use an internal combustion engine, and at least one battery-powered electric motor. How they save and renew the battery energy differs depending on the model, but there are common technologies found in most hybrids. Regenerative braking captures the energy created from deceleration, and stop/start shuts down the engine when the car reaches a complete stop.
Hybrid powertrains can be broken down into three subcategories: full, mild, and plug-in. Full hybrids are generally the most fuel efficient. The Hyundai Elantra is an example of a full hybrid which automatically switches between series mode, parallel mode, and all-electric mode. In series mode, the vehicle gets propelled only by the electric motor, while the gas engine simply serves as a power generator for that motor. In parallel mode, the electric motor and gas engine both drive the wheels. Hybrids may be more expensive when you first buy them, but they’ll save you money on fuel long term.
Much more eco-friendly than pure internal combustion engine powertrain, hybrids also deliver a far quieter ride. In all-electric mode, the gas engine gets completely shut down, and only the electric portion gets used. A mild hybrid, such as the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, is not as fuel efficient as a full hybrid, because it always operates in parallel mode.
A plug-in hybrid is a vehicle that can be recharged by plugging it into the grid. Most of these operate like a full hybrid, but come with a larger battery pack and the ability to charge it through a plug. Critics consider the Hyundai Ioniq one of the top plug-in hybrids.
Hybrids may not accelerate or reach top speeds like gas-powered cars, so it's up to the individual to decide whether the increase in efficiency and decrease in emissions is worth that drop in performance.
Electric vehicles, or EVs, don’t use an engine at all, they are actually powered just by electric motors. The issue people use to have for EVs was the limited range, but ranges have increased drastically in recent years. Electric vehicles with low ranges are clearly best used for local trips only, but there are also electric vehicles that can take you on a substantial road trip with just one charge, the Kona Electric has a 415km range, and the Chevrolet Bolt EV has a range of 417km.
Electric motors are also dramatically more efficient than internal combustion engines, and torque is available as soon as you press the accelerator. Gas or diesel rely on increasing revolutions and momentum to produce power and a transmission to deliver that power.
Many customers are more than willing to deal with range issues in exchange for burning no fossil fuels and producing zero emissions. Electric vehicles, and certain hybrids are eligible for a federal tax credit as well.