Why do cars run on gasoline and not rocket fuel?

Just imagine if cars ran on rocket fuel instead of gasoline. There must be a good reason why such a cool idea isn’t possible. Otherwise, we would be seeing many folks sipping rocket fuel into their tanks. Now, things are the way they are, and we have to accept that. However, it’s completely ok to ask why do cars run on gasoline and not rocket fuel? 

Since you’re here, at GasAnswer, browsing this text, there’s a chance you’ve wondered the same. Needless to mention, we’re here to guide you to an answer you absolutely deserve. That’s why today we’ll talk about just why cars run on gasoline and not rocket fuel!

There’s a rocket fuel that might function well with diesel cars. It’s called RP-1. However, one can expect less efficiency and it’s pretty much absurd. Other types of rocket fuel you’re pretty much unable to use. They require you to store them at a temperature of –432°F (-222°C). They’d also freeze your tank/engine in a second. 

Sick and tired of reading just the preview and ignoring the rest? If that’s so, we’re sure you know what’s there to be done!

Table of Contents

Rocket fuel and gasoline – The differences

Now, this probably sounds like the name of some boring novel. Or a scientific study no one wants to read. Don’t worry. We’ll surely avoid turning this text into any of those things. Without further ado, let’s see the differences between gasoline and rocket fuel!

Wait in the car, honey, I’ll just stop right here to sip some rocket fuel… Said no one ever. But, there’s a good chance that whoever that is, has thought about saying it. Unfortunately, that’s not doable. Because? Among other things, because of these differences:

  • As you might know, gasoline’s made out of hydrocarbons. They’ve got anywhere from seven to eleven carbon atoms. These carbon atoms possess hydrogen molecules attached. What about rocket fuel? Well, it has hydrocarbons that go from twelve to fifteen carbon atoms. 

Okay, let’s give things a simpler shape: rocket fuel’s closely related to kerosene. Or: you can say that it’s closely related to jet fuel. The difference between rocket fuel and jet fuel is this:

  • the latter is significantly less efficient. Also, rocket fuel contains oxygen. Because, you know, there’s no oxygen in space and all that jazz. 

One might ask: but I’ve heard you can run diesel cars on kerosene? Is that true? That’s true. It’s theoretically possible to run a diesel car on rocket fuel. Still, there’s an elephant in the room we’ve forgotten to pinpoint. It’s called storage.

Why can’t you store rocket fuel in your garage?

There’s a reason why we’ve already written off this idea. To store rocket fuel, you’ll need to keep it at a temperature below –432°F (-222°C). We reckon your garage can’t simply pull that trick. Also, imagine putting rocket fuel inside your car. It would most likely cause your engine to freeze. Speaking about freezing, here’s how you’ll easily unfreeze your gas tank.

Does rocket fuel smell like gasoline?

Most folks that have smelled it would disagree. As you know, the smell of gasoline is pleasing to some. However, the smell of rocket fuel is nowhere near anyone’s pleasure. Based on experience, the smell’s similar to sulfur (therefore: foul). Of course, people are able to get used to it. Still, we don’t recommend you give it a shot just out of sheer curiosity.

Okay, now that we’ve figured these things out, it’s time to see what’s really in store for today. To phrase it differently: alright, exactly why do cars run on gasoline and not rocket fuel?

A miniature model of a car that runs on gasoline.

Why do cars run on gasoline and not rocket fuel?

First of all, here’s a fun fact: long ago, gasoline was used to power rockets. However, scientists have found other ways to power rockets. That being said, one might wonder: why isn’t it possible to run cars on rocket fuel? Here we’ll show you just why that’s not doable.

Actually, it’s not a question that you should worry about too much. The thing is: if your car’s diesel, it’s probable that it can run on rocket fuel. As we’ve said earlier on, rocket fuel’s basically liquid hydrogen. It’s used to power your average space shuttle’s main engine. Don’t you agree that it’s a bit funny to say your average when talking about space shuttles? Anyway, storing this type of fuel would be a big issue.

As you’ve read in one of the first paragraphs, rocket fuel’s stored at a temperature of below -432°F (-222°C). There’s simply no way one could store inside an average garage or somethin’. Also, it would probably freeze your engine. Oh, and speaking of storage, here’s how you’ll properly store gasoline (not rocket fuel).

What about RP-1?

First of all, let’s answer: what’s RP-1?

RP-1 is a rocket fuel; a highly-refined form of kerosene. On the surface, it’s pretty similar to jet fuel. It was developed back in the 50s. It was meant to be a more efficient alternative to other, alcohol-based rocket fuels. Here’s a fun fact: it powered the Soyuz, as well as Falcon 9. The thing is: RP-1 gives off a lower specific impulse than LH2. If you’re wondering what LH2 is, it’s liquid hydrogen. Additionally, RP-1’s less costly and stable at room temperature. Therefore, it presents a lower explosion hazard. So, why can’t you run your car on it? 

That’s right, RP-1 could be possibly used as diesel car fuel. However, there’s a downside to it. It has lower volatility and higher viscosity. Care to translate? In other words: your vehicle’s engine mightn’t run well on it. It’s absolutely not worth the hassle simply because it’s less efficient. Don’t expect that your car will somehow run faster or somethin’.

All in all: even though you’d be able to power your car with RP-1, it’s downright absurd. And now we’ll reward our readers’ patience with a bonus round of tips closely related to the main subject.

Bonus round: Premium vs. regular gasoline

Now we’ve answered the question of why cars run on gasoline and not rocket fuel. Still, there are many interesting issues we can cover here. For instance, there are many folks that wonder: should I put premium gas inside a regular vehicle? That’s exactly why we’ve chosen this subject as our bonus topic!

So, what’s the deal here? What’s the main difference between the two types of gasoline. The main difference is in the octane rating both of these types possess. Regular gas has a lower (87) and premium gas has a higher (91-93) octane rating. What does octane rating represent? It’s your car’s ability to resist the so-called pinging. It’s the good ol’ knocking noise that occurs when the air/fuel mix isn’t right.

Also, here are some stats. Most cars you’ll see on the street are meant to be run with regular gasoline (above 80% of ’em). Premium vehicles are in the minority (only about 10% of vehicles require you to use premium gas).

For more information on the premium vs. regular gasoline debate, click right here.

Can you mix the aforementioned two types of gasoline?

We’re not saying that it’s impossible. However, one must think a little before doing any mixing. Here’s why.

If you’ve got a car that runs on premium, you won’t enjoy any advantages of using the mix. The sad truth is that you might even do some damage to your engine. On the other hand, if you’re running a regular car using the mix… Absolutely nothing significant will happen. Which is, of course, better than damaging your vehicle’s engine.

Oh, and what about using only premium gas with a regular vehicle? Just like in the scenario above, nothing will happen. You’ll only lose money since premium gas is more expensive.

What about the other way around: using regular gas with a premium vehicle? Avoid it at all costs. You don’t want to ruin your warranty now, don’t you? Also, there’s a good chance you’ll harm your pistons or other parts of your car’s engine.

How to know if your vehicle requires premium or regular?

Not sure whether your car requires premium or regular? It’s all right there, in your owner’s manual. Consult it, when in trouble!

What about midgrade gasoline?

You’ll wanna know that about 7% of vehicles use it. Anyway, what folks see as midgrade gas depends on the state in which it’s sold. Your owner’s manual will tell you the octane rating, so stick to the numbers. Mostly, gasoline that has an octane rating of 89-91 is considered midgrade. Still, it’s better you trust the octane rating itself (without the midgrade etiquette). 

The bottom line

That’s about all that needs to be said about why cars run on gasoline and not rocket fuel. We hope you’ve enjoyed this gas-related delicacy as much as the last. Here at GasAnswer, we like to provide you with the best information an individual is able to find on the web.

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