Why are European cars more fuel-efficient than U.S. cars?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 15, 2020 05:00 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 15, 2020 05:00 AM

Well, for starters your BMW 320d is burning Diesel. The advertisements you are seeing in the US are for cars burning gasoline. So your 55MPG on Diesel, using the same energy content in gasoline would be about 12% less, or 48MPG on gasoline.

US mileage tests are very different from Europe as well. I mean hypothetically, let’s say your 55MPG figure is your actual measured mileage. The European agency testing for mileage may have rated it at 50MPG, and your driving differs from their test. Whereas the US EPA may say the same car gets 40MPG, because again, they use different tests, different speeds for different amounts of time. Your personal 55 MPG would remain the same if we could find you the same road and weather conditions in the US. This is most easily seen when you look at the published figures for total range of a battery electric vehicle. The numbers from Europe and Japan are always significantly higher than those from the US EPA. The 24kWh Nissan LEAFs are rated at 84 miles of range in the US. In Europe they always seem to say over 100 miles from the same car. That difference in the suite of tests used to measure mileage is another 20% difference that you’d have to add to the 12% difference in fuel.

As others have mentioned, European taxation on retail petroleum is much higher than in the US, and so consumers in Europe demand higher mileage cars, and are willing to do many things to get them. They are willing to drive smaller vehicles. They are willing to drive vehicles with less acceleration. And they are willing to make traffic safety laws that perhaps are more favorable to efficiency than to safety at times.

Cars in the US have to comply with US safety laws and pass US crash, noise, and pollution tests. These tests and laws differ in many ways from the European requirements. Heck the fuel additives are no doubt different too.

As pointed out in the comments, even the term “gallons” can be different with Imperial gallons as compared to US gallons. One imperial gallon is equivalent to approximately 1.2 U.S. liquid gallons. Thus another reduction of 16% in mileage shown on Imperial gallons to get to equivalent US gallons.

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