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fuel consumption ratings

This is one option proposed for new fuel consumption rating labels.

I received an e-mail the other day inviting me to comment on proposed new fuel consumption labels. This would be the first major change in almost 15 years to the sticker on new vehicles.

The information on current stickers bears no resemblance to real-world mileage and has been the bane of the industry, and dealers who have to explain why the car doesn't get the "promised' mileage. The label has come under intense criticism because of how inaccurate it is regarding hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

I invite you to join me in letting Ottawa know what you think a new label should report.

The current labels have not been changed since the 1990s. The numbers are obtained in a test cell maintained at 20-30 degrees C, involving two driving cycles – city and highway. The city cycle begins from a cold start (at 20C) and includes a 12-kilometre, stop-and-go drive at an average speed of 32 km/h with a top speed of 91 km/h. The 23-minute test includes four minutes idling and 18 stops. At the conclusion, the first eight minutes of the test are repeated with a hot engine to simulate driving a vehicle after it has been stopped for a brief time.

The 13-minute highway test begins with a hot engine and tries to simulate a 16-km trip at an average speed of 77 km/h with a top speed of 97 km/h with no stops.

Current procedures do not include use of air conditioning, lights or other energy-sapping features, real-world speeds, heavy throttle application or temperature extremes – all detrimental to fuel consumption.

Many years ago, the Americans added three more tests – a cold-temperature test, a high-acceleration driving test, and an air conditioning test. To quote Natural Resources Canada: "The Government of Canada will analyze this test procedure to determine its feasibility in a Canadian environment." It has never accepted or used these additional tests, which resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in the numbers, bringing them much closer to reality.

Actually, Ottawa has stopped doing any testing. As of March 31, 2010, Transport Canada's Fuel Consumption Program ended and manufacturers have been required to submit data to Environment Canada, based on the old two-cycle test.

Now the department of Natural Resource is working on new labels to be introduced for 2016 model-year cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and vans. There are two proposed methods of implementation – regulatory or volunteer.

As proposed, the information the new labels would contain:

  • 1. Technology and fuel: gasoline, flexible-fuel, diesel, plug-in hybrids, electric, fuel cell and compressed natural gas vehicles
  • 2. Fuel consumption: based on the five-cycle U.S. test, city, highway and combined fuel consumption values for all technologies except plug-in hybrids, which would have rates for each mode of operation.
  • 3. Comparison of fuel consumption to other automobiles: size class; and best and worst combined fuel consumption within that size class.
  • 4. Cost savings/spending over five years compared to average automobile.
  • 5. Estimated annual fuel cost
  • 6. CO2 rating: from 1 [worst] to 10 [best] for tailpipe CO2 emissions.
  • 7. Smog rating: a rating based on specific thresholds for oxides of nitrogen, non-methane organic gas, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and formaldehyde.
  • 8. QR code: enabling smartphone users direct access to Natural Resources Canada’s website and its Fuel Consumption Guide or other resource.
  • 9. Driving range: For non-gasoline or diesel automobiles, the driving range of the automobile in kilometres given one full tank and/or a fully charged battery.
  • 10. Battery recharge time.

Let Ottawa know your thoughts. Read the online bulletin at Then submit your comments, by e-mail to by March 22.

You may also mail or fax your feedback to:
Vehicle Labelling, 12-A3-1,
580 Booth St,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0E4
or fax: (613) 992-3161