Times were, picking what powered your car barely warranted a choice: if you needed a workhorse you’d go for diesel, otherwise you were buying petrol.

They’re still the pick for most buyers — they power 94.1 per cent of new vehicles sold in Australia this year, not including heavy commercials — and they will continue to serve most people for years to come.

But now, the push for greater efficiency and environmental sustainability is bringing an influx of alternatively powered vehicles our way — so maybe it’s time for car buyers to start taking fuel source into consideration a bit more when deciding on their new car.


Still the sales king and the most common fuel source around.


Unlike some other options, it’s available everywhere and quick to refuel. Petrol cars are the cheapest type of car you can buy, plus petrol is generally cheaper than diesel on average.

If you have a small engine — particularly a turbo — you can see very miserly fuel use, while bigger engine capacities can offer great power and performance, particularly on the open road. It’s still arguably the most exciting type of vehicle to drive.


If you don’t have a small turbocharged engine, petrols can be thirstier than diesels, thus quickly undoing the benefit of a low-purchase price.

This is especially true when asked to do heavy work such as towing. Some cars with fuel-saving turbochargers may need more expensive premium unleaded to run correctly.

It also emits the most CO2 of any of the options here.

Diesel is good for hardworking vehicles such as the Toyota Hilux.
Diesel is good for hardworking vehicles such as the Toyota Hilux.


The tradie’s choice has also been popular in passenger cars — more so in markets outside of Australia — but globally, it’s considered on the way out.

It’s also arguably got the worst environmental reputation here.


It uses less fuel than petrol, so you’re almost guaranteed less trips to the servo than in a petrol car.

It can be very frugal on the open road and, due to maximum output being available at low revs, can make overtaking a breeze.

But the main pay-off is in doing the tough stuff: it’s the best fuel for towing and hauling heavy loads. And, despite its bad press, it actually emits less than a petrol engine.


Diesels are generally pricier than their petrol counterparts — and the same is generally true at the bowser.

If you’re mainly driving around town, you may not see the fuel savings to warrant the extra spend.

Diesel-particulate filters can also get clogged with urban driving and undo any emissions benefits and performance is often lacking; many don’t enjoy the sound and rumble in the cabin.

Hyundai Ioniq hybrid
Hyundai Ioniq hybrid Credit: Mark Bramley


The big mover on this list and quickly emerging as a favourite for buyers, who have become familiar with the technology over a couple of decades and are no longer wary.

It combines a normal internal-combustion engine, with a battery helping out in certain situations. The battery is charged entirely via the engine braking and coasting.


This is easy green motoring: with no plugs or cables required, owners don’t have to change their usual behaviour — except for visiting the servo less.

They are also starting to be priced very close to their petrol and diesel counterparts.

Hybrids are more economical and offer less emissions than petrol engines, yet can also offer good performance.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid


The fuel savings may not always be significant enough to justify the price difference — especially since many car companies for some reason still only offer hybrids in higher spec variants.

As the battery is mainly charged under braking, its benefits may not be as pronounced if you cover a lot of kilometres on long distance trips.

Batteries can take up space and also be vulnerable to temperature, which may affect their performance.

Also, it still emits CO2.

Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid.
Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid. Credit: chris benny


Much like a hybrid only with a bigger battery, which requires an external source as its primary means of recharging, and is also able to offer extended electric-only driving before the ICE kicks in.

In a perfect world, you’d do all your daily driving under battery power — about 30-60km —while still being able to go on long-distance hauls.


If all goes to plan, you can get the environmental and budget benefits of electric motoring without range anxiety — you don’t have to stress if you suddenly realise you’ve forgotten to plug it in.

They’re cheaper than fully electric cars.

Plus, charge times are much shorter than when compared with an EV. Many PHEVs can be fully charged overnight via a standard household socket.


They’re pricier than non-plug-in hybrids and electric driving range can be significantly impacted by temperature and using features such as air-conditioning.

The large battery can take up interior space and adds significant weight.

This means they can feel heavy to drive at all times, and also means the ICE has to work harder when called upon, impacting fuel economy.

The Nissan Leaf is an EV.
The Nissan Leaf is an EV. Credit: Photography by Mitchell Oke


While hydrogen is still getting its act together, fully electric cars are generally seen as the future of motoring.

And new models are popping up everywhere.


Assuming — and it’s a big assumption — the cars and energy used are created as cleanly as possible, then EVs offer as close to zero-emissions, sustainable motoring as we’re going to get.

They can remove the need to visit the servo entirely, are far cheaper to “fill up” than standard fuels and can be charged while you do other things.

They’re also a blast to drive, with maximum torque arriving from zero rpm and offering a real spaceship-like thrill.

Thanks to components being smaller, the interior space is generally better than in a car with an ICE, depending on how the battery is designed.

Technology is also advancing so you can use your car as a mobile battery to supply electricity to your home.


Until some government incentives or subsidies come in, EVs are still expensive.

With the materials being used, car makers currently have to choose between offering a lot of range, or keeping prices somewhat affordable.

There’s still limited fast-charging options in most of the country, meaning it can take hours to charge the battery — even after you may have spent thousands extra on a wall box at home to speed the process up.

If you forget to plug in, you may be stuck for a while.

Also, any environmental benefit is dependent on electricity being from a clean source, as opposed to, say, a brown coal mine.

Extracted in full from: https://thewest.com.au/lifestyle/motoring/petrol-v-diesel-v-hybrid-v-plug-in-hybrid-v-electric-pros-and-cons-of-each-ng-b881614276z