| Jun 09, 2005

Feature article, June 9, 2005, 2005

Feature article June 9, 2005

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Avoiding gas guzzlers

by Gray Merriam

Stephane Dion, Canadas Minister of the Environment, is making the first clear move by our Federal Government toward Canadas Kyoto commitment. Minister Dion has negotiated an agreement with the auto manufacturers to reduce the carbon dioxide output of their models by 25% (5.2 megatonnes) by 2010. That wont be easy. A similar reduction proposed for California (and favoured by eight other states) is being contested in court by the US automakers. Even when in place, this reduction will only reduce our national output of carbon dioxide by about 0.74% because industrial output is so much more of the total. And industries have been exempted from regulation.


With gas prices nearing a dollar for a litre, we all wish Dion luck but we have to deal with what we already drive or what is available for the next few years. The hype tells us only that SUVs are guzzlers and hybrids are fuel efficient. From the booklet of fuel ratings issued by Environment Canada, it is not that simple.

As the automakers struggle to meet any agreement to increase fuel efficiency in the next few years, the North American models will undoubtedly cost more to pay for those design and production cost increases. As fuel costs increase, the importance of the various costs of your car and its use will change. Remember, even now, if you burn 10 litres per 100 kilometres, fuel, alone, is costing you nearly $10 to go 100 kilometres!

One thing certain you need to become informed and stay knowledgeable. Dont fall prey to the media hype. Consult the 2005 Fuel Consumption Guide (or the year of the vehicle you are considering). The Guide is produced by Natural Resources Canada. It is available at all reputable vehicle dealers, license bureaus and on the web at vehicles.gc.ca or at 1 800 387 2000. If you want to know the fuel use of your present vehicle, start with a full tank, set the odometer to 0 or record the speedometer reading, then drive a while. Refill the tank, record the kilometers that you drove and do the arithmetic (or assign the task). Multiply litres used by 100 and divide that by the kilometers driven. The answer will give you litres used per 100 kilometres driven. The lower the number, the better.

Getting informed and staying knowledgeable does not happen by listening to the oversimplifications of media hype or of manufacturers advertising. You have to put a little effort into it. If you want to save your money and your environment, read on.

Lets use only the worst mileage numbers for city driving to sort out the classes of vehicles. For SUVs (Special Purpose listings in the Guide), fuel use ranges from 24 litres per 100 kilometres (Chev and GMC) to 18 to 20 for mid-range mileages to 12 to 15 for the best models. For pickup trucks, the worst range from 20 to 26 litres per 100 km. The worst mileage numbers for the rest of the pickups are from 15 to 20 litres per 100 km. So even the simple hype that SUVs are the worst offenders does not seem to hold true.

Vans worst city ratings range from 18.5 to 16.6 litres used to go 100 kilometres. The mid-range is 14 to 16 and the low end of city mileages is 12 to 14.

Cars, even for their worst models, use less than vans, pickups or SUVs. For city driving cars worst numbers range from 12 to 14 litres per 100 km for the least efficient models. The best non-hybrid models use between 7 and 10 and the rest are between those two ranges for city driving. The best non-hybrid models are from VW and Toyota.

Instead of the worst, lets consider the best possible mileage ratings for highway driving. For special purpose or SUVs, you can get down to 7.3 ( AWD Subaru Forester or 2WD Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute). No less than 16 SUV models use less than 8 litres per 100 kilometres on the highway.

In pickups you can get down to 7.5 (Ford Ranger, Mazda B2300) and 12 models use less than 9 litres to go 100 kilometres.

There are 20 vans under 9 L/100km but only one under 8 (7.7 for Hondas Odyssey EX-L).

Some cars are much better in their best mileage numbers. Seven models burn less than 7 L/100km, some close to only 6 litres (many turbocharged diesels, even including station wagons). Another 15 models burn less than 9 litres to go 100 kilometres.

Three hybrids, the Civic and the Insight by Honda and the Prius by Toyota use only from 3.9 to 4.9 litres to go 100 kilometres. The Ford Escape hybrid uses 6.6 for the 2WD and 7.1 for the 4WD. The Honda Accord hybrid burns 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres. Of course, the hybrids cost more to build and more to buy and an economically cautious buyer would have to think carefully about the difference in fuel efficiency between a hybrid and a small-displacement turbo-charged diesel from Europe and consider the price differences between them.

At a dollar for a litre, the arithmetic is simple; litres per 100 km = dollars per 100 km; the financing is not so simple.

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