Gasoline Vs Diesel: What’s the Big Difference?

By Max Anthony •  Updated: 02/14/21 •  4 min read

Despite hybrids and EVs invading the market, the diesel vs gasoline debate still stands. Previously, diesel cars were considered noisy and the fuel was considered only for HTVs. Today’s carmakers have refined diesel cars, and even offer high-performance diesel models, such as fast SUVs, and even some hot hatchbacks. So, Gasoline Vs Diesel: What’s the Big Difference? Let’s find out:

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Gasoline Vs Diesel: 7 Things To Consider

Fuel Difference

Regular diesel and gasoline are both produced from crude oil, as it contains various hydrocarbons in a mixture. For different oil-based products, the hydrocarbons must be isolated by the refining to a specific extent. Distinctive hydrocarbon chain lengths have various boiling temperatures and require fractional distillation to separate them.

The various fuels are extracted as per their vaporization temperatures and are recondensed. The big difference between gasoline and diesel is that gasoline is made of alkanes and cycloalkanes with chain lengths of 5-12 carbon atoms, in the temperature range of 40-205°C. Diesel is made of alkanes containing at least 12 carbon atoms, in the range of 250-350°C.

Efficiency

A diesel engine can be up to 40% more efficient than a similarly powerful gas engine, especially the new ‘low’ compression diesels. Also, diesel fuel contains 15% more energy by volume and the engine combustion process is more efficient. The overall efficiency of the diesel engine is 20% greater than the gas engine.

Diesel fuels are more efficient for highways, as they pack more energy per gallon. For city driving, petrol engines are recommended. Diesel cars also have more torque, which also results in a better fuel economy along with more impressive acceleration figures.

Emissions

Diesels have lower CO2 emissions and are more environmentally friendly. However, gas-powered vehicles produce less of some other perilous emissions, like nitrogen. Diesel fuel also produces minute particles connected to breathing problems like asthma.

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Fuel Prices

Most European cars are diesels due to tax breaks. For most U.S. consumers, diesel fuel and gas fuel cost about the same with occasional fluctuations, but the taxes are higher. You’ll get more economy from a diesel engine in the long-term, even if the fuel is more expensive. That’s because you would need an 8-liter gas engine to access the same amount of power as with a 6-liter diesel engine. 

Car Prices

Diesel cars usually cost more than gas-powered ones. High-pressure diesel components like fuel pumps and common rail injector systems are much more expensive to engineer than simpler gas equivalents, and this is factored into the purchase price.

Also, servicing or fixing a serious problem on a diesel car might be slightly more expensive. New diesel cars also cost more to tax than gas cars, and depreciation is now slightly higher.

Gas vs Diesel: Engines

Today’s diesel engines aren’t as noisy, smelly, and unrefined. Specific ones may rattle when idle or clatter when revved, however, most new cars feature plenty of sound-deadening around the engine bay and interior to reduce engine noise, so it’ll feel negligible inside.

Most new diesel vehicles feature turbocharging, which further smooths out the engine note. Diesel engines can last twice as long as spark-fired gasoline ones due to fewer moving parts.

Gas vs Diesel: Performance

Diesels are highly flexible even in higher gears leading to fewer gear changes than gas-powered cars. The flexibility of diesels is not only well-suited to highways but with sufficient reserves of torque and power, many outperform gasoline-equivalent models on smaller roads. As mentioned above, because they deliver more torque in the lower rev range, diesels are superior for heavy loads and towing.

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Max Anthony

Max is a gizmo-savvy guy, who has a tendency to get pulled into the nitty gritty details of technology and cars. He attended UT Austin, where he studied Information Science. He’s married and has three kids, one dog and a GMC truck and a Porsche 911. With a large family, he still finds time to share tips and tricks on cars, trucks and more.