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What is Considered Good Fuel Economy in Canada?

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 13 Sep 2023

car at a petrol pump

    As fuel prices constantly seem to rise, fuel economy has become a concern for most Canadians. This measures how far you can drive based on a certain amount of fuel. Therefore, good fuel economy in Canada means gassing up less often and at less cost.

    Whether you plan to purchase a new vehicle or improve the efficiency of your current ride, understanding good fuel economy in Canada counts. This article will explore the basics of fuel economy, the factors that influence it and Canadian fuel economy standards. Finally, we’ll review how it is measured, then provide you with some useful tips for improving fuel efficiency. So, let’s roll!

    Factors Influencing Fuel Economy in Canada

    When it comes to fuel economy, Canadians measure this rate in litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km). Several factors can either enhance or hinder the efficiency of your vehicle over this distance. Understanding these factors can help you optimize your fuel consumption, reduce your carbon footprint and lower your gas costs.

    Vehicle Type and Fuel Economy

    The type of vehicle you drive can significantly impact fuel economy in Canada. Generally, smaller vehicles and hybrids operate more fuel-efficiently compared to larger SUVs or trucks. Since smaller vehicles are lighter and have smaller engines, they consume less fuel.

    Additionally, the aerodynamics of a vehicle can also influence its fuel economy. Vehicles with sleek designs and low drag coefficients cut through the air, using less energy to propel forward.

    Furthermore, advancements in technology have led to the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). These vehicles’ electric motors and batteries supplement traditional internal combustion engines, offering even greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. 

    Driving Habits and Fuel Economy

    Believe it or not, your driving habits play a crucial role in determining fuel economy. Frequent rapid acceleration, excessive idling and speeding can all lead to decreased fuel efficiency. On the other hand, you can maximize fuel economy by maintaining a steady speed, anticipating traffic and minimizing sudden stops.

    Moreover, the weight of the vehicle and its cargo adds extra weight, which requires more energy to move. By decluttering your vehicle and installing aluminum wheels, you can improve fuel efficiency. 

    Naturally, external factors, such as weather conditions and terrain, can also affect fuel economy. For example, driving in extreme heat or cold requires additional energy to heat or cool the vehicle’s interior. Similarly, driving uphill or on rough terrain can demand more power from the engine, drawing on more fuel.

    From choosing the right vehicle type to adopting efficient driving habits, every step contributes to a greener, more fuel-efficient future. Of course, driving wisely also reflects well on your car insurance rates so there’s another win!

    Tips for Improving Fuel Economy

    While fuel consumption ratings offer a standardized measurement, achieving the rated fuel economy in everyday driving may not always happen. Factors, such as traffic congestion, weather conditions and driving style, can all impact a vehicle’s fuel economy. Now, let’s explore some practical tips to enhance your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

    Maintenance Tips for Better Fuel Economy

    Regular vehicle maintenance maximizes fuel economy. Simple tasks – like changing the air filter, keeping tires properly inflated and using the recommended motor oil – can significantly help. Additionally, keep your vehicle’s engine properly tuned and free from any malfunctions.

    Also, consider your drivetrain and the number of gears you use when you drive. Front-wheel drive cars operate most efficiently and all-wheel and four-wheel drive the least. To save gas, only switch to four-wheel-drive mode when needed.

    Engaging extra gears can keep the engine running optimally. Therefore, look for a continuously variable transmission whose belts and pulleys match your speed to the gear you need.

    Fuel Selection and Ethanol Blends

    Your choice at the pumps matters too. Typically, consumers face choices of octane levels of 87 (regular), 89 (mid-grade), and 91 to 93 (premium). By buying higher octane gasoline, your engine will run smoother. It also experiences higher compression ratios, turbo-charging and downsizing/down-speeding. All these factors result in higher performance and greater engine efficiencies.

    Further, regular gasoline typically contains about 10 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel made from various plant materials. Ethanol has a higher octane number than gasoline, boosting power and performance. Did you know that Indianapolis 500 drivers often fuel their race cars with 98 percent ethanol due to its high octane? 

    Any flexible fuel vehicle (FFV) with an internal combustion engine can run on gasoline or any blend of gasoline and ethanol up to 83 percent. If designed to operate on higher ethanol blends, fuel economy would likely increase as a result of increased engine efficiency.

    The impact to fuel economy lessens as ethanol content decreases. Yet, since ethanol comes from plants, its renewable nature means drivers don’t draw on traditional oil wells as much.

    Efficient Driving Techniques

    Driving efficiently can go a long way in saving fuel. For example, driving in stop-and-go traffic or with harsh acceleration and braking can increase fuel consumption. Instead, avoid rapid acceleration, minimize unnecessary idling and maintain a steady speed. Furthermore, reduce wind resistance by closing windows and sunroofs and removing roof racks when not in use.

    Before you even get into your car, you can cut down on unnecessary idling. Remote car starters waste fuel by turning over the engine sooner than needed. Conversely, a block heater warms a vehicle’s engine block so you start a semi-warm engine and improve your vehicle’s overall winter fuel efficiency. Also, some people run their engines at length to melt ice and snow off their cars. Using human power to sweep and scrape saves on fuel. 

    However, use other technology to make the most of your drive. Use a navigation system to follow the most direct route to your destination without detours. If you drive a manual transmission, keep an eye on the tachometer to track engine speed and shift gears appropriately. Trip computers show the amount of fuel you use so you can learn to consume less.

    Using cruise control on highways and long stretches of road helps maintain a consistent speed, reducing fuel consumption. This eliminates the need for frequent acceleration and braking, which eats up fuel.

    Finally, keep air conditioning to a minimum. It can increase fuel consumption by more than 20 percent in a city. Instead, install tinted windows to block some of the sun’s heat without air conditioning. 

    Check Cars for Fuel-Efficiency

    If you seek a greener ride, you can turn to Canada’s fuel consumption ratings search tool. You can compare vehicles by year, class, make and model when planning your next purchase. For more details, factor in the transmission type, fuel used and the number of cylinders.

    Fuel consumption ratings search tool

    For a more personalized approach, key in your average number of kilometres driven in a year. By setting the percentage of city driving, the tool delivers more insights.

    Armed with this knowledge, buy the size of car you need without going overboard. Generally, the smaller the vehicle, the less money to buy it and fuel to power it. You can also choose a smaller horsepower engine with fewer cylinders. Try downsizing to a smaller engine with a turbocharger for fuel-efficiency.

    For example, a 2023 compact Kia Rio costs, on average, $1,675 a year for gas. Meanwhile, a 2015 Volkswagen Sportwagon would require $2,050 worth of fuel. Even with the same number of cylinders, their age and size affect fuel efficiency.

    As for extras, skip the power windows, seats, mirrors and doors if possible. All these perks add weight – up to 40 to 60 kilograms for a 1,200-kilogram vehicle. That results in two to three percent more fuel use over the car’s lifespan.

    Fuel Economy in Canada: The Bottom Line

    Good fuel economy in Canada gets determined by several factors, including vehicle type, driving habits and adherence to government regulations. By understanding the basics of fuel economy and implementing maintenance and driving techniques, you can strive for optimal fuel efficiency. 

    Not only will you save money at the pump, but you’ll also contribute to a greener and more sustainable future. So, let’s make conscious choices and drive towards a fuel-efficient Canada!

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    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications