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Diesel or Gasoline Car?

Written by Josh Jimenez

The Philippine economic situation has called for greater awareness and sensitivity in our spending habits. With fuel prices being the most obvious change due to the changes in legislation, there is even more pressure to re-examine our attitudes regarding transportation.

One of the most popular debates in the field of automobiles is between diesel or gasoline cars. In the Philippines, diesel is preferred for its abundance and affordability as compared to gasoline. There is, however, more to the equation than meets the eye.

Both diesel and gasoline engines are internal combustion engines. This means that the engines work through explosions within the car. They both go through the same four stroke cycle:

1. Intake stroke: A piston descends in the cylinder and sucks oxygen from the air intake system in. Fuel is injected or sputtered in simultaneously.
2. Compression stroke: The piston ascends in the cylinder, compressing the air and fuel mixture.
3. Power stroke: The air-fuel mixture is ignited and this explosion causes the stroke to descend the cylinder again.
4. Exhaust stroke: As the piston ascends again, the resulting fumes from the combustion are pushed out of the engine through the exhaust port.

The difference is in the process to create these explosions in the third, power stroke.

A diesel engine ignites the air-fuel mixture simply through the compression that takes place. This means that the piston pushes up so tightly and so quickly that the air-fuel mixture ignites through the collision of molecules.

A gasoline engine ignites the air-fuel mixture through spark plugs. These emit an electrical charge that rapidly heats up the compressed mixture. Pistons do not have to ascend as far as in diesel engines. Ignition simply through compression in gasoline engines is actually unhealthy and is known as engine knocking.

Diesel cars are preferred in the Philippines because diesel fuel is generally cheaper. Diesel also has more energy potential than gasoline. This means that igniting a certain amount of diesel fuel will create a stronger explosion than that same amount of gasoline. Diesel engines also have higher torque at low RPMs. This is why larger cars suck as trucks and trailer vans run on diesel; they will start moving even with such weight.

On the other hand, gasoline engines are quieter and are less violent than diesel engines. Maintenance costs on gasoline engines is significantly less, since diesel engines are more robust to handle their erratic nature.

There are many factors to consider and numbers to balance out when thinking long term. While diesel engines are more fuel efficient and are built for endurance, they are harder to repair and can cost way more than gasoline engines. Gasoline engines are easier to maintain and provide a smoother operation. This is the reason that smaller cars are usually fitted with gasoline engines.

With today’s technology, the performance of diesel and gasoline powered cars are very similar. Gasoline engines used to be the norm for race cars since they could reach higher RPMs, but diesel-powered race cars are dominating the tracks.

Perhaps the best way to choose is to know which applications you will put your car through. For heavier jobs such as mass transport and for heavy, long term use, a diesel-powered car may be your best bet. For more personal applications such as shorter, spirited drives, and for those who swap cars every couple of years, a gasoline-powered car may be for you.

This is a friendly reminder from your Acom family to always have the future in mind, especially in this economy! God bless you!

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