What Types of Fuel are Used in Automotive Engines?

The majority of people are aware that automobiles can be fueled by gasoline or diesel. There are four more common automotive fuels that not as popular as gas and diesel.

The following fuel types are all used in automobiles. Each of the fuel sources have their own pros and cons, and people are divided on which fuel source they prefer the most.

Gasoline (Petrol)

Gasoline is the most commonly used fuel for automobiles. It is a specialized fossil fuel that has been specifically designed for use in four-stroke engines.

Gasoline Pros:

  • Provides the ability for the engine to start quickly
  • Allows acceleration of speed to happen quickly
  • Allows the engine to be quiet when it is in operation
  • Allows for easy combustion
  • Is easy to obtain

Gasoline Cons:

  • Is a contributing factor to pollution
  • Is a contributing factor to smog
  • Is a contributing factor to global warming
  • Is costly to produce


Diesel is a fuel that is commonly used by large automobiles like delivery trucks. It is also used in passenger vehicles. It is a fossil fuel like gasoline, and like gasoline it is non-renewable.

Diesel Pros:

  • Diesel allows a vehicle to have about 30% more fuel-efficient than most gasoline engines
  • Contributes a lesser amount of carbon dioxide 
  • Diesel engines usually last longer than gasoline engines
  • Is easily obtained

Diesel Cons:

  • Contributes to higher levels of nitrous oxide in the air
  • Creates a larger amount of compounds that are related to smog
  • Is a contributing factor to pollution

Liquefied Petroleum (propane)

There are a number of automobiles that are designed to use propane as a fuel source. Generally, people in the U.S. who want to use this fuel source have to have a gasoline engine converted.

Propane Pros:

  • Less expensive than gasoline or diesel
  • Does not contribute as many smog-producing organic compounds
  • Creates fewer toxins and less pollution

Propane Cons

  • Engines that burn propane for fuel are hard to find
  • Engines that burn propane are more expensive
  • Fueling stations that provide propane for cars are harder to find
Engine fuels

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

CNG is a wonderful fuel alternative to gasoline or diesel. It burns cleaner and produces less harmful emissions. To have an engine that operates on CNG you will need to have a gasoline engine converted.

CNG Pros:

  • Produces about 80% fewer harmful emissions
  • Fuel efficient
  • Burns cleaner and is not corrosive

CNG Cons:

  • Fueling stations for CNG are difficult to find
  • Fewer mechanics know how to work on these engines


Ethanol is made from products like corn, sugar cane, and barley, so the fuel source is readily available. Ethanol is popular with gasoline engine owners because the ethanol does not require expensive conversion processes for the gasoline engine to use the product.

Ethanol Pros:

  • Clean burning fuel
  • Created from resources that are relatively inexpensive
  • Creates fewer harmful emissions
  • Cars can either run on 100% ethanol fuel or on a mixture of ethanol and gasoline

Ethanol Cons:


Bio-diesel is created out of natural ingredients like sugar beets, palm oil and rapeseed. It can even be created out of the used oil that is gathered from commercial kitchens.

Bio-Diesel Pros:

  • Burns cleaner than either gasoline or diesel
  • Produces less harmful emissions because it creates less carbon dioxide
  • May be cheaper than gasoline or diesel

Bio-Diesel Cons:

  • Production of this fuel could result in deforestation at an alarming rate
  • Fueling stations are not as readily available

Other automobile engine considerations

Besides the choice in fuels to operate your automobile engine, you also have a choice in oils to lubricate your engines. Regular oil and synthetic oils are both being used to lubricate engines.

Synthetic motor oil products do not need to be changed as frequently as regular oil needs to be changed. The initial cost of the oil is higher, but when you factor in the length of time you can go between oil changes you see that the cost is actually slightly less than the cost of traditional motor oil.

Synthetic oil is specifically designed to maintain its properties even when the temperatures are very high. Their biggest asset is when the temperatures are really cold. In cold climates, synthetic oil does not thicken like traditional oil, so they lubricate better.

David Hanley

I am a contractor. I love my job to the moon and back. I like to try new tools that can ease my work and satisfy my clients. I am not a blogger, am a DIY person who wants to help my fellow friends.

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