Natural Resources Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Office of Energy Efficiency Links

 

Personal: Transportation

Menu

Buying a Fuel-Efficient Vehicle

For information on the new Excise Tax (Green Levy) on Fuel Inefficient Vehicles, contact: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/bdgt/2007/xcs-eng.html.

  • Fuel consumption can vary widely from one vehicle to the next. Whether you're buying new or used, the choices you make today will either save you money (through reduced fuel consumption) or cost you money for years to come.

  • How big is big enough? It's always a good idea to avoid buying more vehicle than you need. Larger vehicles tend to be heavier and have bigger and more powerful engines, so consider buying the most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your everyday needs.

  • If you're buying a new vehicle, check the EnerGuide label for its estimated fuel consumption rating. EnerGuide labels are now affixed to all new light-duty vehicles sold in Canada.

  • Estimated fuel consumption ratings for all new cars, light-duty trucks and vans sold in Canada are also available in the free Fuel Consumption Guide. You can download a PDF version of the Guide, or call 1 800 387-2000 to order your free copy. Past editions are available, so you can also check fuel consumption ratings for used vehicles.

  • Have a look at the list of the most recent winners of the EnerGuide Awards, presented each model year to the manufacturers of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in different classes – two-seater, subcompact, compact, mid-sized and large cars, as well as station wagons, vans, pickup trucks and special purpose vehicles.

  • Your choice of transmission will directly affect the cost of the vehicle and its fuel consumption. As a general rule, a manual transmission is more fuel efficient than an automatic, assuming you shift properly. If you buy an automatic, the more gears, the better.

  • Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive offer superior traction and braking under slippery conditions, but the weight and friction of additional drivetrain parts can increase fuel consumption by 5 to 10 percent compared with two-wheel drive vehicles. How often would you need to use this option, and is it worth the extra fuel cost for as long as you own the vehicle?

  • Under normal driving conditions, smaller engines deliver better fuel economy than larger engines. Choose the smallest engine that meets your everyday needs.

  • Are you willing to pay a fuel penalty for as long as you own your vehicle just to have the convenience of options such as power windows, seats and mirrors? Many options increase fuel consumption by adding weight, increasing aerodynamic drag, or drawing extra power from the engine.

  • Do you really need an air conditioner? Operating an air conditioner in hot weather can increase fuel consumption by more than 20 percent in city driving. Consider using the car's ventilation system and options such as a sunroof and tinted glass.

  • For most drivers, cruise control saves fuel on the highway by keeping your speed constant and avoiding inadvertent speeding.

  • Explore your fuel options. Will a fuel-efficient diesel vehicle meet your needs? What about propane or natural gas, which produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and are cheaper to use than gasoline or diesel fuel? Ethanol fuel blends are also widely used by Canadian motorists.

Electric Vehicles

For personal transportation the three main types of electric vehicles are as follows:

  • Hybrid Electric

    A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) uses two sources of power to move the vehicle. The first power source is a conventional internal combustion engine that can be fuelled by gasoline, diesel or other alternative transportation fuels. The second power source is an electric motor powered by a battery. A hybrid electric vehicle never needs to be plugged in, as the battery is recharged when the vehicle is being driven by the internal combustion engine and through regenerative braking.

  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric

    A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is similar to a hybrid electric in terms of having two power sources. The difference is that, for these vehicles, plugging-in is an option that allows the vehicle to use electricity from the power grid to charge its battery. A plug-in hybrid would normally have a larger battery than a regular hybrid, to store more electricity from the power grid – electricity that can be used to operate the electric motor.

  • All-electric

    An all-electric vehicle is driven by an electric motor powered by batteries. When the battery runs low, an all-electric vehicle must be recharged by plugging it into the power grid. Since there is no internal combustion engine, an all-electric vehicle does not have the driving range of a conventional vehicle, but is suitable for many of the trips Canadians take everyday. An all-electric vehicle can also be referred to as a “pure electric vehicle” or as an “electric vehicle”.

  • Battery Electric Vehicle

    A Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is driven by an electric motor powered by batteries. When the battery runs low, an all-electric vehicle must be recharged by plugging it into the power grid. Since there is no internal combustion engine, an all-electric vehicle does not have the driving range of a conventional vehicle, but is suitable for many of the trips Canadians take everyday. An all-electric vehicle can also be referred to as a "pure electric vehicle" or as an "electric vehicle".

Availability

HEV's are readily available for use on Canada’s roadways. Some automobile manufacturers have begun supplying PHEV's and BEV's to the Canadian market.

Benefits

  • Hybrid electric vehicles have the driving range and rapid refuelling of a conventional vehicle but consume significantly less fuel and emit less carbon dioxide, due to use of an electric motor and battery which improve energy efficiency.

  • A plug-in hybrid electric pushes the hybrid vehicle concept a step further by allowing the vehicle to use electricity from the power grid. This further reduces its on-road environmental impact.

  • All-electric vehicles are considered zero-emission vehicles, as the electric motor produces no exhaust emissions while on the road.

For plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, it is important to consider the pollution created during the electrical power generation (i.e. when producing the electricity used to charge batteries). In Canada, although some electricity is generated using coal, oil and natural gas, almost 60 percent is produced using hydroelectric generators and another 15 percent is generated by nuclear reactors, both of which produce little air pollution.

Regenerative Braking

One of the reasons electric vehicles are energy efficient is their ability to take advantage of regenerative braking. With a conventional vehicle, each time the brakes are applied the vehicle’s forward energy is wasted as heat between the brake pads and the disks or drums. In an electric vehicle, when the driver applies the brakes, the electric motor is used in reverse to assist in stopping the vehicle and to generate electricity. The electrical energy that is recovered is stored in the vehicle’s battery for future use.