How Does The Fuel Type Affect Automotive Design?

Let's face it - we need to continue powering our cars, whether that be via petrol, electricity, or some other form of juice. We’re yet to see flying cars that work on cold fusion criss-crossing the skyline with limitless energy, after all. Indeed, even in 2021, fossil fuels remain the most popular way to propel vehicles. There are five major types of fuel that power our cars today. But how are they shaping the future of the automotive industry?



1. Petrol gas (gasoline)

This remains the most common type of fuel – particularly in the United States.

Petrol was almost immediately popular due to the fact that it was a cheaper and cleaner alternative to traditional engine fuel. This popularity has sustained for decades, and petrol-based engines are still easier to maintain and require less upkeep than those that run on other types of fuel.



2. Ethanol

This is an alcohol-based fuel, topped-up with gasoline to build a more sustainable and environmentally friendly fuel source. It’s produced from the fermentation of a range of plants including sugarcane and grains. Thanks to the bustling corn industry in the United States, ethanol is a particularly cost-effective fuel, due to corn usually being cheaper than oil. It’s also more renewable for this reason, but industrial corn farming is considered environmentally hazardous by some.

However, there are some limitations to its usage in vehicles and ethanol always needs to be delivered in a blended mixture, because pure ethanol will not burn hot enough to cold start an engine.



3. Diesel gas

Diesel technically features more damaging chemicals per gallon than petrol, which is in part why we’re rapidly heading towards a diesel-free future. Ironically, diesel engines (especially those that are well maintained), actually end up producing less CO2 and greenhouse gases than petrol engines and can sometimes deliver better miles per gallon; up to 30% vs their gasoline counterparts. Recent advancements in diesel engines have resulted in ‘particle collectors’ which intercept harmful chemicals and prevent them from being released into the atmosphere. It’s also easy to forget that, up until recently, the price of diesel was significantly cheaper than petrol, too.



4. Bio diesel

Now we’re getting inventive! Bio diesel is developed from natural energy sources and recycled materials such as cooking oil, or certain organic materials including soybeans. They’re even using lard! The best part about bio diesel’s development is that it can usually be used with existing diesel engines. It’s better for the environment but also promotes sustainability and reusability for common household items that are simply thrown away. That said, there’s growing concern about the role of biofuels in rising food prices… and doubts about the genuine climate benefits.



5. Electric

This is now the fastest-growing sector within the automotive industry. The race towards electric vehicles (EVs) first began with hybrid models that combined petrol-powered motors with partial battery-powered support to mitigate and offset the amount of gas needed. The results were immediately beneficial for the environment, as well as capable of improving miles per gallon by nearly 100%. Lots of tax breaks followed, and the EV market was finally born.

Several years later, Tesla arrived, and was one of the first manufacturers to offer a fully electric, road legal car that was easy to drive, reliable and capable of covering long distances. The continued development of EVs is an exciting one to watch and has even led to engines that can be powered by any energy source - not just fossil fuels. The future is incredibly interesting and exciting.



If we’ve sparked any questions today, don’t forget you can contact the Flowdrill team directly - we’d love to hear from you.

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