The diesel and petrol engines that are used in most cars are highly similar. In essence, they are internal combustion engines that work using a two or four-stroke cycle. In an internal combustion engine, the power cycle is made up of four phases: intake, compression, power and exhaust.
In the intake phase, air is drawn into cylinder through the opening intake valve. In the compression phase, the intake valve closes and air is compressed with fuel. At this point, the mixture of fuel and air is ignited to cause an explosion. It is this explosion that causes the piston to downwards and drive the crankshaft to produce motion. This is the power phase. The final phase is exhaust where the spent air-fuel mixture is expelled out of the cylinder through the opening exhaust valve so that a new cycle may begin.
The main difference between diesel and petrol engines is that petrol engines use spark plugs to ignite the air-fuel mixture, while diesel engines rely solely on heavily compressed air. As mentioned earlier, Rudolf Diesel found that the temperature of air could be made to increase high enough if it was heavily compressed. The temperature would rise so high to the point where it could cause the ignition of diesel fuel.
Therefore in diesel engines, air in cylinder would be very heavily compressed, typically to around 14 to 23 times its original volume. In petrol engines, the compression ratio is generally much lower, because they rely more on the spark plug to begin the power phase. The compression ratio is petrol engines is typically around only around 7 to 10, with high performance vehicles having higher compression ratios of up to 13.
High compression ratios are desirable because it results in higher thermal efficiency. In other words, more energy can be extracted out of the air-fuel mixture. This also explains why diesel engines are considerably more efficient than petrol engines. In fact, diesel engines have the highest thermal efficiency of any internal combustion engine.
Pros of Diesel Engine
Cons of Diesel Engine