Data compiled by research firm Lightstone finds that new vehicles have indeed become more far more economical over the past three decades and more.
Lightstone found that in 2006, the weighted average fuel consumption of Passenger (PAS) vehicles was at 7.19 litres per 100km, and in August 2016 that number dipped to 5.83 litres per 100km.
Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) average fuel consumption in 2006 was 10.3 litres per 100km, and in 2015 this decreased to 8.42 litres per 100km.
Possible factors contributing to this could include: strict emissions standards abroad; the availability of cleaner fuel such as 20ppm diesel; and the manner in which fuel gets into an engine and how it is used, has improved greatly, thus allowing for greater efficiency in an engine.
Lightstone’s data also looked at the average kilowatt per engine size (in litres) and it is evident that there was an increase of roughly 3kW between 2003 and 2007.
Bigger engines no longer mean better
The bigger the size of the engine, the more fuel is burnt and more by-products emitted, ultimately resulting in higher emission tax to be paid by manufacturers to produce a vehicle, Lightstone said.
Manufacturers realised the higher emissions tax they had to pay, the less profits they would ultimately make, so they started to make smarter decisions when it came to engine development and adding more power to their existing, smaller engines.
Post 2007, the average kW’s per engine increased quite substantially, Lightstone said.
In 2016, PAS vehicles have an average of 72.2kW, whereas a decade ago they were at 54.7kW.
Light Commercial Vehicles meanwhile, were at 37.5kW in 2006, and increased to 43.8kW in 2016.
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“Engine manufacturers have moved away from increasing combustion chamber size, and have begun to increase power. These days it is all about getting maximum combustion percentage from each fuel-air mix particle, meaning that the size of the combustion chamber is not so important for road-faring motor vehicles any longer,” said Heinrich Coetzee from Lightstone Auto.
There are many factors that affect how much fuel a car needs, including: tyres, road surfaces, temperature, driving style, driving conditions, elevation and atmospheric pressure, grade of fuel, and break-in of the engine, to name a few.