Learn the facts: Engine technologies and their impact on fuel consumption

What is the issue?

Progressively more stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for light-duty vehicles are in place in Canada, leading vehicle manufacturers to improve engine efficiency by using innovative technologies. 

What do I need to know?

The principal GHG is carbon dioxide (CO2), and reducing a vehicle’s fuel consumption reduces CO2 emissions. The following engine technologies can reduce a vehicle’s fuel consumption:

  • Cylinder deactivation systems are used typically in 6- and 8-cylinder engines. These systems stop using half of the engine’s cylinders when only a small percentage of the engine’s power is needed, such as when driving at a constant speed on a level road, decelerating or going downhill. A cylinder deactivation system can reduce fuel consumption by 4 to 10%.
  • Variable valve timing (VVT) and lift optimizes timing of the intake and exhaust valves relative to the engine speed, in contrast to conventional systems in which the valve timing and lift are fixed. This variability allows for improved engine efficiency and power over a broad range of engine operating speeds. VVT and lift can reduce fuel consumption by 1 to 6%.
  • Turbochargers force air into the engine’s cylinders, in contrast to naturally aspirated engines that draw air in at atmospheric pressure. This method enables a smaller displacement, turbocharged engine to produce the same power as a larger displacement, naturally aspirated engine. The use of a smaller (turbocharged) engine can reduce fuel consumption by 2 to 6% yet provide equal vehicle performance.
  • Direct injection systems can optimize fuel delivery by injecting fuel directly into the cylinder at a high pressure, in contrast to conventional systems that inject fuel into the intake air stream at a lower pressure. Direct injection systems allow for better control of the fuel-air mixture and can reduce fuel consumption by 1 to 3%.

How can I help?

Be a knowledgeable buyer.
Research before you buy and include a lifetime estimate of fuel consumption as a cost and performance requirement.

What are the savings and benefits?

Improvements in engine technology and efficiency can save you money, as illustrated in the following table. Over 10 years, a 10% reduction in fuel consumption corresponds to fuel cost savings of $1,308 to $3,052 and CO2 reductions of 2,760 to 6,440 kg.  At the high end, this is equivalent to removing a large SUV from Canadian roads.



The table illustrates how improvements in engine technology and efficiency can save you money.
Average fuel consumption
(L/100 km)
Average fuel consumption with a 10% reduction (L/100 km) Annual fuel cost savings 10-yr fuel cost savings 10-yr CO2 reduction
14.0 12.6 $305 $3,052 6,440 kg
12.0 10.8 $262 $2,616 5,520 kg
10.0 9.0 $218 $2,180 4,600 kg
8.0 7.2 $174 $1,744 3,680 kg
6.0 5.4 $131 $1,308 2,760 kg

Note: For illustrative purposes, savings are based on an annual driving distance of 20,000 km, a fuel price of $1.09/L and a CO2 emissions factor of 2.3 kg/L of gasoline.