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Petrol Vs. Ethanol

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Research Question

Reducing carbon output from cars and producing more sustainable fuel at first seems straightforward but there are a number of things that need to be considered. Investigate the advantages or disadvantages of smaller versus larger engines, fuel types and electric vehicles. Report on a type of engine and fuel and its potential advantages and disadvantages in reducing carbon output.

Carbon Dioxide output in vehicles is one of the biggest environmental threats that’s around these days. A regular vehicle emits close to 4.6 metric tons, of CO2 each year, times that by the amount of cars on the road and three quarters of a century, and it’s obvious why it’s such a concern.

Different types of fuels emit different levels of CO2 when burned, electric vehicles are the same. Ethanol is being used as a viable fuel source when combined with regular petrol. Can the Ethanol Petrol blend be more effective and more environmentally friendly than that of just Petrol? Different engine sizes can burn fuels differently, which in turn effects the output of CO2.

Different types of fuels emit different amounts of CO2 into the environment when burned

In Petrol CO2 is produced when the carbon atoms in the Petrol react with water (from the hydrogen atoms) and a high heat is created from miniature explosions within the car. When the pistons reach top cylinder the spark plug is activated igniting the fuel, releasing a hot gas that pushes the piston back down.

When Petrol is mixed with Ethane such as E85 and E10 there is a lessened amount of CO2 output. CO2 output is less in regular Petrol than it is in diesel petrol. In regular Petrol the “Octane rating” is at 87. With 91 Octane, 95 Octane and 98 Octane these fuels are known as “premium petrol’s” because the octane rating is higher. The higher the Octane, the less susceptible the fuel particles are to be colliding with one another once burnt therefore creating less contact between particles.

Diesel has a higher CO2 level than Petrol but emissions of a Diesel car are actually lower, the reason behind this is that Diesel uses less fuel than air, while in Petrol it’s the other way around, it means there is a higher CO2 level in Diesel, this is because the CO2 is burnt slower due to the amount of air burning with the fuel, while it’s the other way around with Petrol. Also as all types of engines burn fuel differently they all emit varying amounts of CO2.

Alternatively electric vehicles emit no CO2 when being driven, they are purely ran on electricity which in this sense means it’s by far the best option when considering the environment. However, the electricity that’s used to power the electric car releases CO2 when produced. Approximately 130g into the environment per kilometre driven. Which when compared to the other levels of CO2 emitted a shown in “Source 1” is a very efficient and positive option in reducing carbon output.

Ethanol is produced from the distillation of starch crops, mainly corn. Ethanol is believed to be able to replace fossil fuels, given time. However at this stage Ethanol can’t be ignited safely within a fuel tank in a car without regular Petrol to help it ignite properly.

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The Ethanol and Petrol blend creates two fuels, E10 and E85, this means in E10 there is 10% Ethanol and 90% Petrol, in E85 it is 85% Ethanol and 15% Petrol. E85 is a lot safer than regular Petroleum because it is burnt differently, the alcohol in the Ethanol not only cleans your engine while being burnt but cools down the incoming air and remaining fuel, it also creates higher horsepower for cars and has a higher compression build. A key disadvantage for Ethanol is that more corn needs to be grown, this means that more farmers go to growing corn instead of other crops, unbalancing the natural order that things have been growing for so long. This may be good for corn farmers in the sense that they produce more corn, selling more, making higher profits, the disadvantage side to this is that regular cattle farmers or crop farmers might turn away from what their farm does, this means there will be less of one amount of produce than another, tipping the natural scales off.

Reducing carbon output is something environmentalists mention all the time, CO2 output into the environment creates everything from pollution too global warming. 4.6 tons of CO2 is emitted into our environment per year by each vehicle, in 2019 there were 1.4 billion cars in the world, with the average CO2 output in “Source 1”, 1.4 billion cars are producing 2.31kg of CO2 per litre, the average car around the world burns through 2,458 litres of fuel per year, this means on a rough calculation 794,917,200,000,000kg of CO2 is being released into the environment per year (as of 2019). CO2 isn’t only emitted into the environment from vehicles either, everything from burning coal to deforestation.

Electric vehicles, although emitting a little bit of CO2 are a definite better option when considering the environment, but when thinking about todays environment and the number of cars in society the best fuel source would clearly be the electric cars, these produce a large proportion less CO2 than the cars run by all other fuels.

Although, when considering purely fuels the best option is the E85 (Ethanol 85% – Petrol 15%) blend, this emits a lot less CO2 than regular petroleum cars and even diesel fuelled cars.

Different engine sizes emit different levels of CO2. A larger engine usually has a higher fuel consumption level than that of a smaller engine and in turn usually emits higher levels of CO2 at the same time. Larger engines often have a quicker take-off pace and will have more horsepower than that of a car with a smaller engine making them a popular choice. Usually with a smaller engine comes a smaller vehicle. A larger engine can usually tow much heavier loads, also a big advantage to users, particularly farmers, transportation and commercial users. However the smaller vehicle often costs less due to the smaller tires and less fuel consumption. In weight, therefore putting less load on the tires and wear ‘n’ tear on the road, so whilst the larger vehicle can offer certain advantages, there are both noticeable perks with smaller and larger engines. When one takes the environment into consideration the obvious choice of engines is a smaller engine.

Being environmentally considerate clearly, can be done as easy as the type of car you purchase, what fuel you put in and how often you choose to drive it, for example choosing to walk to work or sport instead of driving when possible.

It has been found that electric vehicles emit a noticeable amount less CO2 into the environment than regular vehicles. However, for several reasons it would appear that the best option for the greater part of society at this point in time is the Ethanol and Petrol blend, Ethanol was found to emit less CO2 by a large margin than regular fuels.

Both the type and the use of all vehicles play a major role in the amount of carbon produced into our environment and is definitely something to worry about. Unless something is done, it will continue to play a big part in the worlds pollution levels and be a significant contributing factor to global warming for our planet.


  1. Petrol Types | Which Is Best For Your Car? – Canstar Blue
  2. Which fuel type do I need? Petrol, diesel, E10, LPG… what’s the difference? | CarAdvice
  3. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle | US EPA

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Petrol Vs. Ethanol. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from
“Petrol Vs. Ethanol.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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