Many of the promissing alternative fuels have relatively low cetane numbers, and may-result in combustion variation problems. This paper presents the chracteristics of the cycle-to-cycle combustion variations in diesel engines, and analyzes and evaluates the mechanism.Combustion variations appear in various forms, such as variations in ignition lag, indicated mean effective pressure, maximum combustion pressure, or rate of heat release. These variations are clearly correlated, and it is possible to represent the combustion variations by the standard deviation in the combustion peak pressure. The combustion variations are random (non-periodic), and are affected by ethanol amount, intake air temperature, engine speed and other various operating conditions. Theoretical analysis based on auto ignition theory showed that all of these factors affecting the combustion variations could be correlated with ignition lag; a reduction in ignition lag is the most effective to reduce combustion variation.