February 28, 2017 at 3:01 PM

If you probably ask many people about the difference between diesel and petrol, you will likely get a blank stare. This question holds no clear-cut answers. 50 years ago, automotive consuming diesel were the heavy vehicles such as tractors, trucks, buses and generators. However, diesel-powered engines were characteristic of being noisy, dirty, slow and produced a lot of smoke. On the other hand, cars mostly used petrol, which had the effect of producing less noise, had quicker accelerations, and engines were cleaner.

How the engines work

A diesel engine works by compressing air first then injects fuel. On the other hand, in a petrol engine, the fuel is first mixed with air before being compressed, and a spark plug is used to ignite the mixture to produce power. 

How the fuels are produced

While both types of fuel are produced from mineral fuel, it is the precise refining methods that vary. Producing diesel and petrol involves separating the different types of hydrocarbons in the crude oil. Since different hydrocarbons have different boiling points, a process known as fractional distillation is used to separate them.

The process involves heating up the crude oil in distillation columns and extracting the different hydrocarbons. Refining diesel is easier than petrol, but it will usually contain more pollutants.This makes diesel fuel much denser when compared to petrol. Nonetheless, the power produced in a diesel engine is higher due to a higher compression ratio when compared to a petrol engine, which has a lower compression ratio. Consequently, petrol fuel has a high volatility when compared to petrol. 

Bridging the gap

However, over the years, the automotive industry has witnessed rapid changes and the gap between the two types of engines. This has mainly been occasioned by the greater emphasis on lowering gas emissions, increasing fuel economy and having quieter engines. While the diesel engine is still considered noisier, higher rated model are closing in on this gap. Furthermore, the installation of turbochargers in diesel engines has increased their rates of acceleration, thus reducing the performance gaps for both types of engines. 

A while back, running on a diesel engine was much cheaper than on its petrol equivalent. This was because diesel was much cheaper and insurance premiums were lower for diesel models. However, this gap is closing especially considering that most of the cars nowadays area made with lighter materials which make them more efficient. Furthermore, advances in engine technology have made petrol engines more economical. 

In conclusion, it is evident that the differences associated with diesel and petrol engine have reduced over the years. When compared with the parameters such as performance, cost and economy, the difference between the two engines types is blurring especially when considering the continued technological innovations.

Nonetheless, when it comes to choosing which engine to run, you ought to take into account the amount of work each engine is required to perform. If you plan on carrying heavy loads, a diesel engine will be a better choice. However, since it is still a dirtier fuel when compared with petrol, you may find yourself paying additional charges in some towns and cities. 

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Category: Tips