How Does Propane Compare To Gasoline & Which Is Better Used For What?

Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.
~Edward Abbey

Today I want to answer the question about how does propane compare to gasoline and perhaps more importantly which one should be used when and why.

At One Plate One Bowl (OPOB) we’re about uncovering the secrets to living an authentically abundant life that doesn’t require conspicuous consumption or very much consumption for that matter. It’s about sucking the very marrow from life. Enjoying life to its fullest while spending little so we can have more freedom to explore the things we want to and at the same time increasing our own personal health, wealth and the health of the planet.

But today we focus on the pedestrian topic of propane vs. gasoline. So first a very brief and quick overview.

What is propane?
Propane is naturally found as a gas but usually not alone. It is actually the by product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining.

However, it is usually used by humans as LPG or Liquified Petroleum Gas. This is the stuff that you use in barbecues and in many vehicles. In fact, LPG is the 3rd most common used as a fuel for vehicles in the United States after gasoline and diesel.

Interestingly, after the propane in North America has been produced, it is stored in huge salt caverns. So many and so bit that around 80 million barrels of propane can be stored this way.

Propane is considered an alkane also known as paraffins or saturated hydrocarbons. Saturated because the exclusive hydrogen and carbon atoms of which they are comprised are bonded exclusively by single bonds making them full or saturated with these bonds.

Propane is a viable alternative to gasoline for cars and has many other practical uses such as in off-the-grid refrigeration, bbqs as mentioned previously, hot air balloons, as the propellent in Paintball guns and portable stoves and the likes in recreational vehicles etc.

Propane is a cleaner burning fuel than gasoline for vehicles and non-toxic in its pure state though for use in vehicles it includes an odorant and around 5% or so of butane, ethane or propylene. So it is NOT safe to ingest.

What is gasoline?
Gasoline also known as petrol in most of the world is a toxic, liquid petroleum derived product. In gasoline’s natural state it is a liquid unlike both liquified petroleum gas (natural gas) or LPG (propane).

The Research octane number (the agreed upon standard if you will), not the octane number found at the gas pump of gasoline around the world is generally between 91 and 99 RON with an exceptional uncommon gasoline developed by both Shell and BP of 102 RON. This compares to propanes RON of around 115.

It is generally agreed that gasoline is worse on the environment than propane, however, propane is not really a viable alternative to gasoline because it is a by product of petroleum refining. A better alternative is perhaps natural gas but it is not easily converted or usable by vehicles due to the pressures required to keep natural gas in a liquid state.

Gasoline also uses many more additives than does propane and also makes use of detergents as it is harder on combustion engines than propane. Both gasoline’s and propane’s energy density is similar at 47.2 and 46.4 megajoules per kilogram.

Concluding thoughts on propane versus gasoline
From an OPOB perspective which one you use is generally up to the purpose of the use. For barbecues propane is the obvious and normal choice.

However, when it comes to what type of fuel to use for your car or vehicle this is my suggestion. Keep using whichever type of fuel your current car uses. I don’t think there is any valid reason to adapt your gasoline powered vehicle to use propane.

I also don’t think there is much need to buy a propane powered vehicle if you are in the market for a new car. The more important points are to do less driving generally, to choose a smaller vehicle in most cases and to get our and ride your bike more often.

Hope this overview on how propane compares to gasoline was helpful. Remember to make wise choices taking into consideration the bigger picture. Propane compared to gas is a small picture item. Good to know, but not something to worry about.

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