Canada updates fuel consumption rating methods

Harmonization with U.S. to take effect with 2015 models; new labels set for 2016

Published: February 28, 2014, 3:00 PM
Updated: November 22, 2021, 4:12 PM

Canada's Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver at CIAS

Don't be surprised if the advertised fuel consumption numbers for 2015 model-year vehicles sold in Canada seem to take a leap compared to their 2014 counterparts.

That is, fuel consumption will appear to increase (fuel economy get worse) even when the vehicles haven't really changed.

It's a case of believe it and don't believe it. The reported numbers will go up in such cases, but the actual fuel consumption won't change.

It's just a reflection of a change in test procedure to make the official ratings more realistic – closer to what people might expect to achieve in the real world. The change has been anticipated for some time.

Canada slow to respond

For reasons not entirely clear, the Canadian government has been dragging its feet on making that change for several years – which is why, if you've ever bothered to do the calculation, converting advertised U.S. fuel economy numbers to L/100 km results in something different from the advertised Canadian numbers for the same vehicle.

In response to public complaints about unrealistic fuel economy ratings, the U.S. adopted a new, so-called five-cycle, test method for the 2008 model year but Canada has continued to follow the older, less-stringent two-cycle procedure, until now.

The decision finally to harmonize the standards was announced last week at the Canadian International Auto Show by Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver. At the same time, NRCan released its annual list of Canada's Most Fuel-Efficient Vehicles, by category, for 2014.

That reveal has traditionally taken place with great fanfare at a formal award distribution ceremony on the auto show's media day. This year's announcements, during public days at the show, were uncharacteristically low key.

New label not until 2016

According to the NRCan press releas, an updated, more informative fuel consumption label will appear starting on model year 2016 vehicles. These labels will include additional information such as the fuel consumption of other models in the same vehicle class and CO2 emissions.

The label will be also tailored to address new, emerging technologies such as battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

No explanation was given regarding the delayed implementation of that label.

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association (CVMA) and the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC) have both expressed support for the procedural change.

However, GAC president David Adams noted, "This change typically means that 2015 model-year vehicles will have labels that show greater fuel consumption than a similar 2014 model-year vehicle."

Caution re comparisons

The association cautioned that, "It is extremely important for consumers to understand the difference between 2014 label values that reflect the old two-cycle test methodology and the new five-cycle testing methodology reflected on the label value of a 2015 model year vehicle."

Direct comparisons should not be made between ratings established by the two systems. Based on past comparisons between reported U.S. and Canadian numbers, the new the Canadian ratings are likely to increase by about 15%.

The industry went through a similar situation more than 40 years ago when the method for determining advertised engine horsepower ratings changed from "SAE Gross" to "SAE Net."

Power ratings for 1972 model year cars were typically much lower than for identical models in previous years.