Automotive fuels – What comes to your mind when someone asks you about what powers your current or maybe the next car? Well, it is not only about cars because they were not the first ones to be invented. In today’s featured, we take you down the memory lane and tell you about the evolution of automotive fuels. Why only talk about the past? We will also talk about the present automotive fuels which we are using and last but not least, we are gonna talk about what’s still awaited. Let’s begin our journey to the world of automotive fuels!

  • Steam

    Automotive Fuels
    Steam Engine

    Well, jumping directly to the steam engine won’t do any justice to the past. Let’s start from the beginning. In the middle ages, people used firewood as fuel. No automotive was invented till then of course. With this, they started using the coal present on the ground and when they used up all of it, miners started digging the ground for more coal. As they went deeper, mines started filling with water. This was the revolutionary point where Thomas Newcomen invented a coal-burning steam engine to pump out water and allow miners to dig deeper.

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    car service

    Further, James Watt made some improvements in the engine and made it fit for other uses as well. This is when railroads were made. Coal mining was now easy because they had steam-driven rails inside the mines to transport the stuff. In simple words, we can say that steam was the most initial one among the automotive fuels. Most of us know that trains used to run on steam-powered engines and therefore, this is one of the largest used automotive power sources from the past.

  • Petroleum

    petroleum extraction
    Petroleum extraction

    Well, this is a wider one. We have got so many things which we extract from petroleum. Gottlieb Daimler invented the first automobile running on petroleum and wright brothers started oil aviation. We still use petroleum products to power our vehicles in the present day too. Let’s have a look at all the products we obtain from petroleum and if we use them as automotive fuels.

    The difference you must know

    • Butane

      Butane Engine
      butane engine

      This is a sample Butane engine but it has not been used to power automotive yet because of its energy losses. A 20% equivalent power loss is definitely not a good thing to have therefore if we had Butane engines, we would end up with high fuel bills. Just to let you know, it will still be cheaper than what we use now. Yes, even with the losses, Butane would have been cheaper than both petrol and diesel.

    • Diesel Fuel

      Maruti Diesel engine
      Maruti Diesel engine

      Another commonly used petroleum product as an automotive fuel is diesel. Developed in the 1890s, the diesel engines are still used to power many machines. It was the most commonly used automotive fuel used to power heavy vehicles like trucks and buses until CNG came into common use (talking about India only). Early diesel engines were large and operated at low speeds due to the limitations of their compressed air-assisted fuel injection systems.

    • Gasoline (Petrol)

      Hyundai 1.0-litre Turbo Petrol | Powerful Engines in India
      Hyundai 1.0-litre Turbo Petrol | Powerful Engines in India

      Well, turbo came into existence much later but petrol or gasoline became a commonly used automotive fuel along with diesel. In 1876, Nicolaus Otto invented the petrol engine and its working cycle is named after him only. Otto worked with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach patented the compressed charge 4-cylinder engine. Later inventions led to a 2-stroke engine but the power source remained the same.

    • LPG and Propane

      Automotive Fuels
      Liquified Petroleum Gas

      Another one which we obtain from petroleum only. LPG or liquified petroleum gas is used in households till date. Talking about the past, LPG was actively used to power vehicles. Although LPG is now banned in major parts of the country, it was used very actively and was among the preferred sources of energy for running automobiles.

    • Liquified Natural Gas

      Automotive Fuels
      LNG Car | Credits

      Well, this is a car that runs on human waste. We have put its picture here because the engine under the hood of this Beetle is methane-powered and the LNG we are talking about has got methane as the major constituent. The use of LNG was never a common thing but we hope the future can let us use it as a common automotive fuel.

  • Alternative Fuels

    Toyota Prius | BS6 Cars from Toyota
    Toyota Prius | BS6 Cars from Toyota

    When we say Hybrid, the first car that commonly comes to the Indian minds is Prius. Well, moving ahead in our tale of automotive fuels, we now come to the alternative fuels that are either currently in use or are planned to be used in the near future.

    • Electricity

      • Hybrid Vehicles

        Worst Selling Cars Of 2019 | Toyota Prius

        As we mentioned above, Prius is the most commonly known hybrid car. Well, Electricity is not the main source here but we can always say that these cars make good use of the energy extracted by primitive fuels which would have been wasted otherwise. The battery is charged by the energy extracted from the engine losses.

      • Electric, fed by an external source

        Indian railways

        The major advantage provided by this setup is that you don’t need to stop for charging or refuelling. Power is continuously derived from the overhead lines and therefore, electricity (which may or may not be sourced from the primitive energy sources like coal or petroleum) continues to be a major contributor as an automotive fuel.

      • Battey Electric

        MG ZS EV
        MG ZS EV

        The one which is gaining swift popularity in the current times. Electricity powered vehicles are now being preferred by people over gasoline and diesel because they are relatively cheap and also, they help curb the current worsening air quality in the present world. With zero pollution, EVs seem to be the new favourite for the audience.

      • Solar Power

        Automotive Fuels
        Solar Power

        Another major development in the world of EVs is Solar Power. We already have developed the use of solar power in households and the automotive industry is the next one to get that! We don’t think we need to explain this in detail as all of us are already familiar with what solar energy is and how can it set things in motion.

    • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

      Maruti Suzuki S-CNG Car Line-up
      Maruti Suzuki S-CNG Car Line-up

      Another one among all the automotive fuels that is on a roll currently is the Compressed Natural Gas or CNG. HIgh-pressure CNG is used to power vehicles instead of gasoline. Just like LNG, this also contains methane in a major proportion and produces the least amount of CO2 in comparison to other fuels. Petrol vehicles can be retrofitted with CNG easily. Ohh, come on! if you are a regular reader, you know how much we have already told you about CNG.

      Read 10 Most Googled CNG Car Questions, Answered!

    • Di-Methyl Ether Fuel


      Dimethyl Ether or DME is a really promising fuel in case of diesel engines. Thanks to its cetane number! DME’s cetane number is 55 and while diesel has got a cetane number 40-53 in the usual cases. Therefore, a diesel engine can easily run on DME with minor modifications.

    • Biodiesel


      Fatty acid methyl ester – this is what is commonly known as biodiesel. It has a lower density than the fossil diesel, therefore, biodiesel-powered vehicles are usually not able to match the efficiency of diesel vehicles without being modified. The injection timing needs to be changed before you switch to biodiesel if you want to attain the same efficiency.

    • Hydrogen

      Automotive fuels
      Hydrogen Cars

      Although this is not a viable resource at present we can have good expectations from it in the future. Hydrogen may look like a very good fuel theoretically but has got a bunch of problems. One of the major problems is that H2 is currently produced by natural gas reforming. Therefore, a Hydrogen car will indirectly produce more CO2 than gasoline. Also, according to the current R&D, the losses are also considering making it less viable at the moment.

    • Liquid Nitrogen

      Another one among alternative automotive fuels is liquid nitrogen. LN2 is exposed to ambient heat in the car and then Nitrogen gas is released which can be used to power a piston or turbine engine. This fuel source is also yet to be explored for betterment. LN2 is also not quite viable at the current R&D level.

    • Wind

      Automotive Fuels
      Sail Racer

      Formula Zero – a vehicle powered by wind energy! It has 4 motors at each hub and uses wind energy to function. This seems very far away from the mainstream development but is definitely worth mentioning if we are curating a list of automobile fuels. Considering the fact that wind-powered vehicles can operate only in certain areas, we need to work on how we can develop this technology further.

    • Water

      Automotive Fuels
      Water Powered Car

      The most abundant resource is available on earth! Imagine how great it would be if cars could run on water! Well, water will not burn in any case so how is energy derived from it? The only process by which we can do that is splitting it into Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules and then using the Hydrogen to generate energy. This sounds too simple but it isn’t so. This process also needs a lot of R&D in order to be commercialised.

    • Magnets

      Automotvie Fuels
      Maglev Trains

      Heard of maglev trains? If you haven’t you need to read this for sure! These trains use magnetic field energy in order to move. The Magnetic Levitation Technique is used to move the train ahead. This technology has given the trains the ability to accelerate and decelerate much faster than conventional trains. However, the investment needed to build them is comparatively higher which is why we don’t have them here yet.

This was all about the automotive fuels that were used in the past or are being used in today’s world. Some of the above power sources also seem to be good automotive fuel for the future of R&D is carried out on a good scale. If you have read this far, first of all, we would like to thank you for being a loyal reader. As always, if you have anything in mind, leave it in the comments section below because we love to hear from our audience! Stay pinned for more.

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