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What Is Multifuel?

B. Turner
B. Turner

Multifuel refers to any device capable of burning more than one type of fuel. This may include an engine or motor used to power equipment, or a furnace or stove used for heating. While multifuel systems originated in the military to help troops function with limited fuel supplies, they are now used all over the world in a wide variety of settings.

Depending on the application, a multifuel device can take a number of forms. The most basic multi fuel-burning device consists of a standard engine constructed with heavy-duty materials. These engines are designed to consume the best quality fuel, or highest octane made available to them. Many automatically modify operation based on the type of fuel used. Others feature a manual switch that users can adjust based on the type of fuel they plan to use.

A plug-in hybrid car, a type of multifuel device.
A plug-in hybrid car, a type of multifuel device.

Other multifuel devices feature a two-in-one operating system. For example, a hybrid vehicle is considered a type of multifuel device because it operates using either an electric-powered motor or gas-powered engine. Furnaces and stoves may also contain two separate devices that are linked together. When the fuel in one of these devices runs out, the other automatically kicks in to supply power using the other available fuel.

Many home furnaces use multifuel engines.
Many home furnaces use multifuel engines.

Multifuel engines are commonly used in military vehicles or aircraft. They are also used in flex-style automobiles, which may rely on ethanol or standard gasoline for power. They are also commonly used in home furnaces or stoves. These heating units may burn traditional propane, oil or natural gas, or alternative and biofuels. Some stoves burn wood or coal, but can also utilize wood pellets or other eco-friendly materials.

The primary advantages to a multifuel system is the flexibility it offers to users. If homeowners or companies run out of a standard fuel, they can rely on other fuel sources to avoid a loss of heat or power. Multifuel engines also help to reduce dependence on traditional fossil fuels, which can help preserve limited world supplies.

Typically, multifuel engines cost more than single-fuel units. They also feature a more complex operation, and require greater maintenance due to their increased number of components. These engines are not as widely available as more traditional engines, and come in a relatively limited range with few options. When used with alternative fuels, multifuel engines may not perform at optimal levels. This is particularly true of large engines like those found in aircraft or military equipment.

Discussion Comments


@hamje32 - The concept of multi fuel has been extended to gas stoves to, although in a little different sense than you normally think. For example you can buy what’s called a dual fuel range.

This is a situation where your range has a gas stove top but the oven is electric. I think you can find many modern ranges that have this feature and it’s very convenient.

I’m all for gas in the stove top myself. I just think that it cooks better than an electric stove top, especially since I do a lot of stir fry and things like that.


@everetra - Multi fuel stoves are a great option to have in my opinion. You can burn coal as well as wood on it. It’s great for heating a room; I think it’s better than just a regular wood burning stove or a fireplace.

It does take a little longer to heat up the room with the multi fuel stove but the room will stay heated a lot longer than it would with a regular fireplace. I like that flexibility of not having to use wood. One winter we went through all of our log supplies very quickly. With coal we could have lasted a lot longer.


@NathanG - That may be true. However most people who buy these cars aren’t buying them only to save on gas costs. They are buying them for environmental reasons, to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the air. You can’t do that with a regular automobile.

Furthermore not every one sells their cars in five years. Some people run them until they have 300,000 miles on them, and some of the multi fuel cars like the Toyota Camry are capable of that. So you have to take all these things into consideration when weighing your decision.


In principle I am all for vehicles with a multi fuel engine, like a hybrid car for example. However I think that the cost savings are a bit overblown. They do save on gas, but you pay thousands more up front for a comparable gas vehicle.

As a matter of fact one study that I looked at said that if you bought a hybrid it would take you about 12 years in gas savings to offset the difference in the purchase price between the hybrid and the regular vehicle.

I usually don’t hold my cars for more than five years so personally I don’t think that it would be worth it really.

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    • A plug-in hybrid car, a type of multifuel device.
      A plug-in hybrid car, a type of multifuel device.
    • Many home furnaces use multifuel engines.
      Many home furnaces use multifuel engines.