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Ethanol vs. Gasoline — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on October 1, 2023
Ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel derived from plants like corn and sugarcane. Gasoline is a petroleum-based fuel refined from crude oil.
Ethanol vs. Gasoline — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Ethanol and Gasoline


Key Differences

Ethanol is a biofuel made primarily from corn or sugarcane, making it renewable. Gasoline, on the other hand, is derived from fossil fuels, primarily crude oil, which is non-renewable. Both fuels are used in internal combustion engines, but they come from fundamentally different sources.
Ethanol has a higher octane rating than gasoline, which can potentially offer better engine performance. However, gasoline has a higher energy density, meaning you get more energy per unit volume, leading to longer driving ranges. Both fuels have pros and cons in terms of performance.
Ethanol is considered to be environmentally friendlier than gasoline. It emits fewer greenhouse gases and other pollutants when burned. Gasoline releases more harmful emissions, contributing more to air pollution and climate change. However, both fuels have some level of environmental impact.
Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline to produce a hybrid fuel called E85, which contains up to 85% ethanol. This blend aims to combine the best attributes of both fuels. Gasoline, when mixed with ethanol, can offer some of the environmental benefits of ethanol while retaining the energy density of gasoline.

Comparison Chart


Plant-based, Renewable
Petroleum-based, Non-renewable

Energy Density


Environmental Impact

Less harmful emissions
More harmful emissions

Octane Rating

Generally higher
Generally lower


Can be mixed with gasoline
Can be mixed with ethanol

Compare with Definitions


Ethanol is derived from plants like corn and sugarcane.
The U.S. primarily uses corn to produce ethanol.


Gasoline has a higher energy density.
Cars running on gasoline generally have longer ranges.


Ethanol is a renewable energy source.
Ethanol is favored for its renewable nature.


Gasoline is derived from refining crude oil.
Crude oil refineries produce a variety of products, including gasoline.


Ethanol has a higher octane rating.
High-performance engines may benefit from ethanol's higher octane rating.


Gasoline is a petroleum-based fuel.
Gasoline prices fluctuate with the global oil market.


Ethanol can mix with gasoline to form blends like E85.
E85 fuel contains up to 85% ethanol.


Gasoline can be mixed with ethanol to reduce emissions.
Some fuels are a mixture of gasoline and ethanol to meet environmental standards.


Ethanol is an alcohol-based biofuel.
Cars that run on ethanol emit fewer greenhouse gases.


Gasoline () or petrol () (see the etymology for naming differences and the use of the term gas) is a transparent, petroleum-derived flammable liquid that is used primarily as a fuel in most spark-ignited internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives.


Ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol) is an organic chemical compound. It is a simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H6O. Its formula can be also written as CH3−CH2−OH or C2H5OH (an ethyl group linked to a hydroxyl group), and is often abbreviated as EtOH. Ethanol is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid with a slight characteristic odor.


A volatile mixture of flammable liquid hydrocarbons derived chiefly from crude petroleum and used principally as a fuel for internal-combustion engines.


See alcohol.


A flammable liquid consisting of a mixture of refined petroleum hydrocarbons, mainly used as a motor fuel; petrol.


(organic compound) A simple aliphatic alcohol formally derived from ethane by replacing one hydrogen atom with a hydroxyl group: CH3-CH2-OH.


(countable) Any specific kind of gasoline.
The refinery produces a wide range of gasolines.


Specifically, this alcohol as a fuel.


Marijuana, especially very potent or high quality.


The organic compound C2H5.OH, the common alcohol which is the intoxicating agent in beer, wine, and other fermented and distilled liquors; called also ethyl alcohol. It is used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions, or mixed in gasoline as a fuel for automobiles, and as a rocket fuel (as in the V-2 rocket).


(slang) An alcoholic beverage made of vodka and energy drink.


The intoxicating agent in fermented and distilled liquors; used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions and rocket fuel; proposed as a renewable clean-burning additive to gasoline


Made from or using gasoline.


A highly volatile mixture of fluid hydrocarbons, obtained mostly from petroleum, as also by the distillation of bituminous coal. It is used as a fuel for most automobiles and for many other vehicles with internal combustion engines. The gasoline of commerce is typically blended with additives to improve its performance in internal combustion engines. Gasoline was also used in the early 1900's in making air gas, and in giving illuminating power to water gas. See Carburetor.


A volatile flammable mixture of hydrocarbons (hexane and heptane and octane etc.) derived from petroleum; used mainly as a fuel in internal-combustion engines


Gasoline is a non-renewable energy source.
The limited nature of gasoline contributes to its price volatility.

Common Curiosities

What is Gasoline?

Gasoline is a fossil fuel derived from crude oil.

Is Ethanol renewable?

Yes, ethanol is considered a renewable energy source.

Is Gasoline renewable?

No, gasoline is non-renewable.

Which has a higher energy density?

Gasoline has a higher energy density than ethanol.

What is Ethanol?

Ethanol is an alcohol-based biofuel made from plants.

Does Ethanol affect engine performance?

Ethanol can potentially offer better engine performance due to its higher octane rating.

Can Ethanol and Gasoline be mixed?

Yes, they can be mixed to create blends like E85.

What are the emissions from Ethanol and Gasoline?

Ethanol emits fewer greenhouse gases, while gasoline emits more harmful pollutants.

Is Gasoline corrosive?

Gasoline is generally less corrosive than ethanol.

Which is more environmentally friendly?

Ethanol is generally considered more environmentally friendly than gasoline.

Which has a higher octane rating?

Ethanol generally has a higher octane rating than gasoline.

What is the main source of Ethanol in the U.S.?

Corn is the primary source of ethanol in the U.S.

Does Gasoline affect engine performance?

Gasoline provides a longer driving range due to its higher energy density.

Is Ethanol corrosive?

Ethanol can be corrosive to certain materials, unlike gasoline.

What is the main source of Gasoline?

Crude oil is the primary source of gasoline.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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