5 Common Types of Fuel for Cars

Last Updated on March 30, 2021

Until we are all driving 100% electric vehicles, the need for car fuel will always be in great demand. Every internal combustion engine is designed in a similar way. It needs a mixture of air and fuel to ignite and create the power needed to move the wheels of the vehicle.

However, some of the primary differences between various engines include the type of fuel they use and how the ignition takes place. If you put the wrong fuel in a vehicle, the engine will fail to produce the power needed to move the vehicle. It could even ruin the engine permanently.

Related: What is Flex Fuel?

5 Main Types of Fuel


The average car owner who drives an economy vehicle will purchase regular or super unleaded gasoline as their primary source of fuel. It is the cheapest type of fuel and it serves the basic power needs of most internal combustion engines. But, gasoline is a fossil fuel which produces carbon emissions that go into the atmosphere. This results in the growing air pollution problem we have in the world, resulting in global warming.


Diesel fuel is used for bigger vehicles, such as trucks, trains, buses, and tractor trailers. It is actually a fossil fuel just like gasoline is. The amount of carbon dioxide that it produces is less than gasoline too. However, diesel produces more nitrous oxide and organic compounds that create smog. The upside to diesel is its fuel efficiency. Plus, diesel engines last longer than gasoline engines.


Biodiesel is an environmentally friendly version of regular diesel fuel. Instead of being traditional fossil fuel, biodiesel is comprised of organic compounds like lipids and fatty acids. For instance, vegetable oil is a popular ingredient of biodiesel. Other possible ingredients can include animal fat, palm oil, rapeseed and soybean oil.  Biodiesel does not produce very much carbon emissions.


Ethanol is another environmentally friendly way to reduce carbon emissions. This is a bio-fuel which comes from natural products like barley, sugar cane, and corn. The great thing about ethanol is that it can be used in normal gasoline engines. Although ethanol is normally an additive for gasoline, there are some new car models out now that can run entirely on ethanol.

See Also: DTC P0178 (Flex Fuel Sensor Issue)

Compressed Natural Gas

Compressed natural gas can power internal combustion engines that have a fuel system setup for this type of gas. The great thing about compressed natural gas is that it is clear and does not produce an odor. It is supposedly 80% less harmful to the ozone layer too. Unfortunately, most of the gas stations for this type of gas exist only in California.


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