If you operate a commercial truck fleet, the type of fuel you use can make a difference. Depending on your business, one fuel isn’t better than the other. Determining whether diesel or gas is the right option for you depends on a variety of factors: the size of your trucks, how far they need to go, and what other types of vehicles you need to operate, like forklifts or other machinery or vehicles.
In the most basic terms, diesel gives more power and is very fuel efficient for longer routes. Gas engines make sense for smaller trucks traveling shorter distances. Farm equipment, school buses, heavy-duty trucks, forklifts, construction equipment and snow plows all benefit from the power of diesel.
Understanding the difference between the two fuels can help inform your choice.
Diesel fuel is made using a hydrocarbon mixture that is a byproduct of the distillation of crude oil. It is denser than gas. Diesel’s boiling point is higher than that of water, which means it has an extremely low evaporation point.
It’s classified as combustible, meaning it requires compression and heat to function.
Gasoline is made from refined crude oil and other petroleum liquids which are blended with other ingredients and fuel ethanol into finished motor gasoline. It’s available in different grades and qualities. Regular gas can evaporate at room temperature, and is considered a flammable liquid, which means that it requires a spark. So, while diesel fuel will extinguish a lit match, a lit match will ignite the fumes of gasoline before it even reaches the liquid.
Diesel’s chemical composition contains more atoms, which help provide more power during combustion—but also produces more greenhouse gas than gasoline. Because diesel is several times more powerful than gas, it’s the go-to fuel for industries that require that extra energy, such as trucking and construction. The power output also means it’s more efficient than gas. One gallon of diesel produces 147,000 BTUs compared to 125,000 BTUs of a gallon of regular gas.
Gasoline is a less-dense fuel. It’s better at providing speed than sheer power, which is why it’s better for automobiles. It also performs better in cold temperatures.
The key difference between the two fuels is the combustion process in the engine.
In gasoline engines, the fuel is first mixed with air and then compressed by the piston. Then a spark plug creates a spark to cause an explosion (combustion). The explosion moves the piston, which moves the crankshaft and ultimately moves the wheel.
A Diesel engine doesn’t need spark plugs for combustion. Instead of using a spark for ignition, diesel fuel needs to be vaporized before it goes to the combustion chamber, where it ignites at a high temperature.
As the piston compresses the air, it gets hotter due to pressure. The hot air, when mixed with vaporized diesel, ignites resulting in combustion.
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