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Diesel VS Gas: Who Is The True Victor?

By Chad Ina - June 2, 2016

Asking which fuel is better between diesel or petrol is like asking which store is better between an Asda or a Teso. Both have pros, both have cons, and both have zealous believers supporting each of them.

Such a topic is not as ‘black and white’ as it used to be, with the variables and factors of these fuels evolving along with our vehicles every single year. Though there are no definitive answers, there are a couple of distinct factors to keep in mind when choosing the best fuel for your ride. Let’s break it down step-by-step:

Fuel Economy

We used to be able to confidently say that diesel costs were way cheaper than petrol.

Things don’t work that way anymore.

By now, you should know that diesels typically cost about the same or even more than your typical petrol fuel.

Conventional wisdom dictates that diesel provides great mileage – even more than petrol fuels.

And while that’s still true to a certain extent, new types of engines and other varying factors have thinned this margin out greatly over the years.

For example, the ever-growing emergence of direct-injected and turbocharged petrol engines have made this fuel economy difference between diesel and petrol engines smaller than ever before.

Evolution is constantly in the works folks – in ourselves, our cars and even our fuels.

In terms of its efficiency and energy density, diesel is known to deliver better fuel economy as it typically contains more usable energy than petrol (as it converts heat into energy rather than sending the heat out the tailpipe as gas-powered vehicles do).

However, the trade-off is that you won’t get the same flashy high-speed performance that a petrol-powered engine has.

We all want the same thing: maximum power from the minimum amount of fuel possible, so while diesel still holds a lead in its fuel economy, the margin is slowly but surely thinning.

Power

Unlike the previous point on fuel economy, which can go 50-50 either way, the question of which fuel can deliver the biggest power bang for their buck isn’t as undecisive.

Simply put: a diesel engine provides far more torque to the drive shaft than a petrol engine.

And also because of the way it burns fuel, most modern diesel passenger cars are much faster from a standing start than their petrol-powered counterparts.

Sure, petrol engines of similar displacement might still have an advantage in peak power, but just like the previous point, that margin is slowly thinning from 50+ horsepower to approximately 20 – 30.

Moreover, the torque advantage of diesels to their gasoline rivals has grown significantly from 90lb-ft to about 350lb-fit or more.

Especially in the context of trucks, or if you’re looking to get some towing and hauling done, torque is a vital component needed to carry those tasks out – and diesels have more of it than ever.

Why do you think more than 60% of heavy duty pickups are sold with diesels?

Without a doubt, Round 2 goes to diesel.

Environment

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Here in round 3, let’s step away from our selfish needs just for a bit, and think about something outside of ourselves – the environment.

Sure, we could debate the ever-changing minute between both fuels’ price, power and fuel economy all day long, but if we sometimes find ourselves unable to make a definitive decision, maybe we should base our decision instead on factors which far exceed the importance of our own selfish desires.

Because of its improved fuel-efficiency, people might think that diesel engines are typically the better choice for the environment.

That isn’t necessarily true.

There’s a reason why diesel vehicles aren’t as common in the U.S. and Europe: their strict emissions regulations are put in place to counter the dirty emissions produced by diesel vehicles.

Of course, compared to years’ past, vehicles today are much more environmentally-friendly, but that doesn’t change the fact that even today, they still emit harmful emissions such as carcinogens, soot and nitrous oxide.

So if you’re more of a city driver, and actually care about the one and only planet we live in, diesel engines may not be for you.

With that, round 3 goes to petrol.

Conclusion

The debate and fight between diesel or petrol engines will always be prevalent, and just like any good matchup – will never really be settled.

The list of arguments for diesel and gasoline are truly endless.

For example, diesel engines don’t use spark plug or distributors, which means there is no need for ignition tune-ups.

Definitely a benefit right?

But on the other hand, they need to be regularly maintained, or they might require quite extensive repairs which will burn a hole through your wallet.

There will always be trade-offs.

The key is to find which trade-offs are worth making for your needs and preferences.

In our brief analysis of the fight between fuels, it seems as though it ended on a respectable draw.

With round 1 being a close tie between the 2, round 2 being a decisive victory by diesel and with round 3 holding the incredible comeback by gasoline, the fight doesn’t really have a true victor.

Remember that there’s always 2 sides to every coin.

And in the case of this discussion, the coin has been continuously spinning for years with no signs of slowing down, unable to settle on a side, and evolving with new variables and factors constantly thrown into the mix.

Therefore, the best thing you could do is to test both fuels out for yourself and see which one emerges triumphant.

May the best fuel win.

About the Author - Chad Ina

2 comments

  1. I have a definite preference for “petrol” power.
    1. Cleaner (70% less NOx wich is the BIG problem)
    2. Do NOT stink like diesels
    3. Do NOT cause cancer (Nox emissions)
    4. Do worksin cold climates
    5. Have a LOT more response (specially Turbo motors).
    for thought; how about driving a HYBRIB (elec-petrol) which combines the power of the 2?
    I know from personal experience that diesels are “impossible” in COLD places as the fuel is NOT really workable at temperatures below -20¨C and even at -10° the damn things do NOT want to start!
    All in all PETROL, forget the price differences IF ANY!.

    • Personally am a petrol man. But then am a big fan of big engine V10 cars and their noise 😉 … mind you a 335 diesel with the DPF removed sounds pretty good.

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