What’s the best type of car fuel?

How does your choice of fuel type affect the money in your pocket?

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Petrol or diesel?  

That used to be the choice you’d have to make when buying a new car, but the world has changed and we are growing increasingly conscious of the impact our cars are having on the environment. That’s why we’re seeing a surge in the number of electric and hybrid cars on the road - but how does your choice of engine effect key factors such as power and performance. Let’s have a quick look at the options and examine their merits.


Fans of diesel cars say their engines are more efficient so you get more miles to the gallon. Basically, diesels give you more torque - the oomph you need to pick up it’s speed to pick up at lower revs – which means you can change through the gears earlier and get to the fuel friendly end of your gear box sooner. On top of that their CO2 emissions are lower, which means lower tax, but they cost more to buy and diesel is more expensive than petrol. And while modern diesels have shrugged off their reputation for being noisy tractors, they are charged with churning out toxic particulates, especially in the urban cycle. After our 50 mile round trip it cost just under £4.00 to refill this diesel which, over 12 months, equates to about £800.


Although a petrol car may be around 30% less fuel efficient than an equivalent diesel, it still might end up being cheaper to own when the total cost including purchase cost, pump prices and depreciation is spread over three years. And the gap between the two fuel types is narrowing with the latest petrol engines getting smaller, lighter and less thirsty. So they’re eroding the advantages of diesels both in terms of the cost of fuel and the amount of road duty payable. Over a 50 mile round trip it cost £5.51 to refill this Volvo V40 which over 12 months equates to about £1,100.


If you want to lose the combustion engine altogether, then electric is the answer. Other alternative fuels such as hydrogen fuel cells are still under development. Powered up using a conventional plug socket or 32 amp quick charger, the electric car is pollution free motoring at its best.

An electric car is more suited to city and urban life or for motorists who do limited mileage on a daily basis. And the range, the distance the car will go when fully charged tends to be around 100 miles. Refuelling with electricity isn’t a quick process either, in some cases taking an overnight charge to completely refuel. But charging times are coming down and battery ranges are improving. But for many, the range anxiety may be a bit of a deterrent. The payoff though is cheap motoring with no road tax or congestion charges in London. Over a 50 mile trip it costs about £1.25 to refill this Nissan Leaf which over 12 months works out at about £250.


If you like the idea of an electric car, but range anxiety means you want the security of having a combustion engine, then a hybrid could be the way to go. With this technology, the petrol or diesel engine recharges as you drive, giving you free miles when the battery takes the strain. And the latest plug in hybrids allow you to charge the car from an electricity source, just like a true electric car, rather than relying on the engine. The hybrid is a great solution for people who do motorway miles and city driving as the electric mode comes into its own in urban areas. After a short 50 mile trip, it cost around £6.82 to fill this Honda Insight which over 12 months works out at £1,364.

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