A car’s fuel economy, makers’ ‘official’ figures and the inability of drivers in the real world to match them is a regular bugbear for many people. But one car maker is hoping to buck this trend and help car buyers choose a truly economical car. A new website lets drivers input details of their vehicle and driving habits. It then gives an estimate of actual fuel consumption. And the idea could catch on with Volkswagen bosses claiming the company is looking into offering a similar tool for its cars.
PSA Group, the French company behind Peugeot, Citroen, premium brand DS Automobiles, and the new owner of Vauxhall, has launched a web tool. By joining forces with independent consultants Transport & Environment and pressure group France Nature Environnement it has come up with a series of tests to measure fuel consumption more accurately. The measurements on 58 of PSA Group’s models make it possible to estimate the real-world consumption of more than 1000 versions of car.
How does it work?
You put the details of your car into a website. There is one site for Citroen, one for Peugeot and one for DS. If you simply input the make, model, engine and wheel size for your car, you get an initial miles per gallon fuel consumption figure. However, you have the option of entering more detail for a more accurate calculation.
Questions include how many passengers and the amount of luggage you carry (weight affects fuel consumption). They move onto trip distance and how much of your journeys are on urban or rural roads and motorways. Finally, it asks about driving style with simple multiple choice questions. At the end it gives the mpg you should achieve with that car. The whole test lasts about three minutes.
But does it really work?
Without checking the fuel consumption of individual models ourselves, it’s impossible to say. However, it does seem to offer a much more realistic alternative to official figures.
We put in the details of Peugeot’s big-selling 208 supermini. In 1.6 diesel guise the manufacturer says it averages an astonishing 83.1mpg. But that is using the official test. When you plug the 208’s details into the web calculator, it claims the car will average 60.1mpg. Put in more detail about the number of passengers, type of journey and driving style and it rises to 61.3mpg. Change the driving style to less dynamic, slower driving and the economy rises accordingly to 69.1mpg.
Why do we need this?
So that all cars can be compared against each other, economy is measured the same way, whatever the manufacturer or model. This is called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) and it’s conducted under laboratory conditions. But because factors such as weather conditions, gradients and other road users aren’t taken into account, the NEDC bears no relation to real-life driving. That’s why drivers struggle to match the official figures.
Why has PSA Group done this?
The company listened to its customers. By doing so, it realised what most drivers have known for a long time: people want mpg figures that relate more closely to everyday car economy than those currently available. Gilles Le Borgne, executive vice president, quality and engineering, for the PSA Group explained: “This is in line with the commitment we made to our customers. We will add the figures for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in summer 2017.”
Will other car makers follow suit?
There’s every chance they will. Greg Archer, director of clean vehicles at Transport & Environment, said: “In an era of ‘alternative facts’ and dishonest manipulations of emissions tests, one company has seen transparency and openness as the way to re-establish trust with its customers. More car makers need to follow its lead.” Volkswagen boss Matthias Muller told Auto Express that he believes his company will follow suit soon.