mpg gap

The EQUA Mpg gap increases further in 2016

This year’s round up of EQUA fuel economy data shows a five percentage point increase in the gap between official and real-world mpg, reaching 29% in 2016.

Official mpg figures averaged 60.7mpg in the year, the highest we have seen since we started recording in 2011. This is an increase of 9% on 2015’s figures, which stood at 55.7mpg; however, real-world mpg reached just 42.3mpg. On a like-for-like basis, this represents a 3% increase on 2015.

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Air conditioning

With air conditioning now widely available in cars, in 2016 Emissions Analytics updated all its mpg results to include the effect of air conditioning on fuel economy. Results are now expressed to reflect manually adjusted air conditioning (not automatic climate control) switched on at 50% of maximum throughout the test. This increases fuel consumption typically by 4%.

Incorporating the use of air conditioning, the gap between official mpg figures and real-world EQUA Index Mpg has risen to 29% on average, with the largest gaps well exceeding 40%. This increases to 75% below the official figures for hybrid vehicles that have not had their battery charged and are running purely on the ICE.

Can regulatory change reduce the gap?

From 1 September this year the World harmonised Light duty vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) will be introduced to certify the carbon dioxide and fuel economy of cars. Work started on this around 2008 and was originally intended to be a worldwide certification standard. However, with the passing of significant time and the withdrawal of North America from the process, it has become less relevant.

It will still be an improvement on the existing type approval process, which incorporates the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), largely due to the removal or restriction of loopholes in the procedure.  However, the test cycle itself is not much more representative of real-world driving, as it remains in the laboratory with no changes in elevation and still modest acceleration rates. Our prediction, also consistent with modelling from the International Council on Clean Transportation, is that the current mpg gap of 29% and the CO2 gap between official and real-world of around 40% will approximately halve. So, a significant gap will still remain.

Crucially, it has yet to be agreed when and in what way the WLTP results will be made available to consumers. In the meantime the EQUA Index is available for anyone wishing to find out the on-road fuel economy of both Euro 5 and Euro 6 vehicles.

Do we still need to mind the MPG gap?

The gap between official miles per gallon and real world mpg has grown to 22%. This is up 5% since we first started testing fuel economy almost three years ago.

The average official combined miles per gallon of the 459 passenger cars we have tested is 57 and this is increasing by approximately 1.7 mpg per year. Real world miles per gallon (TMPG) on the other hand, which averages 44 mpg, remains flat thus causing an increase in the gap of about two percentage points each year as can be seen in the graph below.

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MPG vs. Engine size

The graph below shows that broadly speaking the gap grows as the engine size reduces. If you buy a five litre car you will not get great mpg but at least it will be consistent with the salesman’s patter and most likely your expectations. However, if you are shopping for a frugal run-around you are better off looking at the one to three litre engines which give the best absolute performance as well as a lower divergence from official figures than the super minis.

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Fuel economy by engine type

Our data also shows that petrol engines, as expected, have worse fuel economy than diesels but interestingly the gap to official is also larger. And, manuals return a better fuel economy than automatics but automatics have a smaller gap between official and real-world figures.

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More MPG

We’ll be looking at MPG in more detail in next month’s newsletter, including an analysis of the manufacturer leader board. The published results will be anonymised but OEMs are welcome to email me if they would like to find out how they sit within the table.

* The original Transport & Environment report Mind The Gap can be found here