Gas vs. Diesel - The Great Fuel Debate
Posted on April 13, 2021
Gas Vs. Diesel
Diesel, you say? Isn’t that just for truck drivers and Europeans?
Not necessarily. While it’s true that the vast majority of North American vehicles are gasoline-powered, many manufacturers offer diesel options for their vehicles, especially if they are foreign-owned, such as Audi, Suburu and Volkwagen.
While there are pros and cons for both energy systems, a diesel engine has been proven to offer a level of fuel efficiency that is only possible from gasoline-powered vehicles with hybrid technology thrown into the mix.
But which system is right for you? Well, there are considerations to take into account. Perhaps a CarHub rundown of both is in order?
Though they both operate under the same principles - they both provide the spark for combustion engines to fire their pistons- diesel provides more torque than its gasoline counterpart. The torque that diesel provides allows for more efficient acceleration, which puts diesel ahead in terms of fuel economy.
What kind of driving do you generally do? Since diesel packs more of an energy punch than gasoline (up to 30% more), it proves to be far more fuel-efficient for drivers who are putting in long road miles, such as frequent highway drivers. The efficiency is diminished slightly for city driving - frequent stops and starts will wear away at the fuel economy benefits that a diesel engine offers. Nonetheless, a diesel engine still wins out, albeit slightly, over a gasoline engine for city driving fuel efficiency.
How’s the Drive?
According to a study conducted by Bell Performance, vehicles that run on diesel fuel perform smoother and with better efficiency than gas-powered engines.
Why is that? Mostly because the combustion process varies between gas and diesel engines. For gas engines, a spark plug ignites the fuel to create combustion. In a diesel engine, extreme compression generates the energy for ignition, a process which is known as compression ignition.
Compression is not as hard on the components of an engine as a gas ignition process but they do run into problems when it comes to repairs because they are notoriously harder to fix.
What’s It Going to Cost You?
Fuel prices vary. At times there is virtually no difference in the price of the two types of fuel at the pumps but surges can cause diesel to jump up to 20% more expensive or vice versa. Where diesel wins out is that it gets better fuel efficiency that will make it the more cost-effective option over time. Here’s the catch though: you could see an upfront cost of thousands of dollars extra for the purchase of a diesel vehicle. So the question once again becomes, how do you drive? You will have to take into account the money saved over time if you are a frequent highway driver. The power generation difference in a diesel engine is significant: a 6.0L diesel engine provides as much power as an 8.0L gasoline engine. They are up to 25% more fuel-efficient than gas engines. With only 3% of North American consumers of lightweight vehicles opting for diesel engines though, the cost of repairs and maintenance of diesel engines can become more pronounced, but these costs may, again, be negated by long-term savings in fuel efficiency.
Not all diesel engines are created equally. Volkswagen has managed to keep its diesel engine oil change costs on par with gasoline-powered counterparts but some manufacturers cannot say the same. Some manufacturers produce diesel engines that require a specific grade of synthetic oil and an expensive oil filter which kicks up the cost of an oil change significantly. Most diesel engines also require about twice the amount of oil as gasoline engines, which is a consideration when the overall cost of the diesel vehicle over its lifetime is a concern.
Another factor to consider when thinking about making the switch to a diesel engine is that not all filling stations offer it. With so few passenger vehicles in North America using them, it’s no surprise that diesel pumps can be few and far between. It’s not likely to be a problem close to urban centers but on a long trip, it could be prudent to map out the route to some extent rather than find yourself in a barren part of the country without a drop of diesel to get you by.
To many people, the thought of a diesel engine leads to thoughts of acrid, black smoke pumping out of an exhaust pipe. This is hardly the case with many diesel engines these days. The EcoDiesel engines that come one our RAM 1500 and Jeep Wrangler, for instance, utilize diesel exhaust fluid ( or, DEF) to ensure that the engine runs clean and emits a purified exhaust.
With extensive driving, the diesel engines in these vehicles lend vehicles that were once known gas guzzlers the sort of fuel efficiency that would put a coupe to shame. At CarHub, we put in the effort to understand our customer’s needs. If we assess that a customer would be a good fit for a diesel engine, we put that suggestion forward. Diesel isn’t for everyone. We’ll discover together if it’s the right fit for you.
The Bottom Line
Diesel provides a clean, quiet, and high-performance fuel alternative to gasoline. Modern diesel engines start smooth and run quietly and they are arguably the cheaper choice throughout an engine’s lifetime.
Diesel comes with some pratfalls though, mostly in the form of higher upfront and maintenance costs. Like so many other buying decisions in the automotive world, consumers will have to ask themselves some hard questions about how they drive, why they drive the way that they do, and how their driving habits will affect their fuel costs in the long run of their vehicle ownership. One thing is for sure: if the cards line up, diesel is a pretty good option to consider for any driver. Is it right for you? For the conscientious driver, it’s at least worth considering.