There are more options when buying a car today than ever before. One of the biggest choices to make is which kind of engine your car has. Here we explain the differences between them and their pros and cons.
Gasoline engines use internal combustion, which means air enters the engine and combines with fuel and, long-story-short, makes the engine run. These engines run on gasoline, which is a fuel made from crude oil and other petroleum liquids.
Benefits of a gas vehicle are price and convenience. Gas cars have been in productions for decades, so new and used options are abundant. They are also convenient because gasoline is currently the most common type of fuel for vehicles and is relatively inexpensive and easy to access.
Some of the disadvantages of gas cars are that they are not fuel-efficient. The best mileage for a gas car is still in the 30 mpg range. Gasoline also contributes to air pollution. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the vapors given off when gasoline evaporates and the substances produced when gasoline is burned (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and unburned hydrocarbons) contribute to air pollution. Burning gasoline also produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
Diesel engines work similarly to gasoline engines, as they both use internal combustion. However, the ignition process varies for gas and diesel engines. The other main difference is fuel.
Diesel fuel is the common term for the petroleum distillate fuel oil sold for use in motor vehicles that use the compression ignition engine. Diesel fuel is thicker than gasoline, so it evaporates slower. Diesel fuel has more energy density, which basically means it packs more energy in every gallon than gas fuel, making it more economical overall.
One of the main benefits of a diesel vehicle is that while diesel fuel typically costs more than gasoline, most diesel engines require less of it to accomplish the same amount of work as a gasoline engine. Diesel engines also have fewer components than gas engines, which means your car has fewer potential parts that could malfunction.
Disadvantages of diesel cars include less convenience and noise. Not every gas station will offer diesel, so drivers sometimes have to go searching for fuel. Diesel engines, particularly older models, are often louder than gas engines and can emit dark exhaust.
Hybrid vehicles (or hybrid electric vehicles/HEVs) are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which uses energy stored in batteries. These vehicles are fueled with gasoline to operate the internal combustion engine, and the battery is charged through regenerative braking, not by plugging in.
Hybrids can be either mild hybrids or full hybrids. Mild (or micro hybrids) systems cannot power the vehicle using electricity alone but generally cost less than full hybrids. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, full hybrids have larger batteries and more powerful electric motors, which can power the vehicle for short distances and at low speeds. These vehicles cost more than mild hybrids but provide better fuel economy benefits.
Another kind of hybrid is plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which use batteries to power an electric motor and another fuel, such as gasoline or diesel, to power an internal combustion engine or another propulsion source. Basically, these are electric cars that have a gas engine as a backup.
Benefits of a hybrid include good gas mileage and reduced carbon footprint. Fueleconomy.gov lists smaller sedan hybrids with fuel economies in the 40 and 50 mpg range, while larger SUVs and trucks along with sportier models in the 20 and 30 mpg range. Another appealing quality of hybrid cars is they are generally newer and quieter cars but are more affordable than electric cars.
Disadvantages of hybrids are their price and versatility. Hybrid models are rarely designed as sports cars or large trucks for hauling heavy material. They can also be pricier than their gasoline or diesel counterparts.
All-electric vehicles (EVs) use a battery pack to store the electrical energy that powers the motor. EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source.
The main benefit of an electric car is its lack of carbon emissions. Although electricity production may contribute to air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency categorizes all-electric vehicles as zero-emission vehicles because they produce no direct exhaust or tailpipe emissions. They are also newer vehicles, usually offer high-tech features, and are very quiet (maybe even too quiet).
Disadvantages of electric vehicles are found in their cost and convenience. EVs are typically more expensive than similar conventional and hybrid vehicles, although some costs can be recovered through fuel savings, a federal tax credit, or state incentives.
As for convenience, electric cars tend to have a shorter range (per charge) than comparable conventional vehicles have (per tank of gas). Drivers of electric cars need access to charging stations, also known as EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment), which are not as accessible as gas stations yet.