Fuel consumption and other things to consider when buying a van
How van fuel consumption figures are calculated and how to use them
The fuel consumption testing scheme is intended to give car and van buyers comparative information about the fuel consumption of different models across a set of standard tests.
Nearly all new van models which are approved for sale in the European Union have to go though the standard tests to determine their fuel consumption. The Van Fuel Data online service, run by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA), contains the test results supplied to the Department for Transport for new vans expected to be on sale.
Background to the standard tests
Official fuel consumption test procedures have been in use since the 1970s. In 2004, a European Directive extended this requirement to cover N1 class goods vehicles (vans) as well as cars. Manufacturers have been able to test to this standard since January 2005. Testing has been a mandatory requirement for new vans since 1 January 2008.
There are two parts to the fuel consumption test - an urban cycle and an extra-urban cycle. For a given vehicle model, the same test cycle is used to determine fuel consumption and its compliance with air pollutant exhaust emission limits. To make sure that the results are comparable, the test is carried out in a laboratory - on a rolling road - at an ambient temperature of 20 to 30 degrees Celsius.
The vehicle to be tested will have been 'run in', and must have been driven for at least 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometres) before testing.
The urban cycle
The urban test cycle is carried out from a cold start, ie when the engine has not run for several hours.
The cycle consists of a series of accelerations, steady speeds, decelerations and idling.
The maximum speed reached is 31 miles per hour (mph) or 50 kilometres per hour (km/h), and the average speed is 12mph (19km/h). The total distance covered is 2.5 miles (4 kilometres).
The extra-urban cycle
This cycle is carried out immediately after the urban cycle. Roughly half of the test involves steady-speed driving, with the rest made up of accelerations, decelerations, and some idling.
The maximum speed reached is 75mph (120km/h), with an average speed is 39mph (63km/h). The distance covered is 4.3 miles (7 kilometres).
The combined fuel consumption figure
This is calculated as the average of the two parts of the test - the urban and the extra-urban cycle - weighted by the distances covered in each part.
The CO2 emissions figure for the vehicle is taken from the combined test.
Vehicles which are designed to run on petrol and either liquefied petroleum gas or compressed natural gas must be tested on both fuels.
Two sets of figures will be shown on the VCA Van Fuel Data service for bi-fuel vehicles. One set is for the vehicle running on petrol, and the other is for the vehicle running on gas.
How the figures are calculated
The figures are meant to serve as a useful means of comparing the relative economy and CO2 emissions of different vehicle models.
However, you should bear in mind that the fuel consumption figures quoted are obtained under standard test conditions, while the vehicle is empty. It's unlikely that you would achieve these figures under 'real life' driving conditions, where different weather, driving conditions and vehicle loads might apply.
For some van models, the Van Fuel Data service groups together several different specifications, variants or versions of that vehicle. The figures quoted will be for the 'worst' performing vehicle in the group. You should ask the vehicle dealer for definitive figures for a given specification.
Subjects covered in this guide
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