To provide Australian motorists with more accurate fuel economy data, a new scheme will assess popular models in real-world conditions – rather than relying laboratory tests.

Australian car buyers will soon have real-world fuel economy and emissions data at their fingertips, rather than relying solely on information based on laboratory tests that are conducted in controlled conditions.

The Australian Automobile Association – the national body representing state motoring groups such as the NRMA, RACV, and RACQ among others – has launched a new program which will involve 200 cars being tested on local roads, instead of in controlled laboratory conditions.

Initial tests will begin to be published in November on

The AAA’s Real-World Testing Program has been allocated $14 million in Federal Government funding to enable the motoring body to test 200 cars over the next four years – which works out to be an average cost of $70,000 per vehicle.

A 2017 study by the AAA of 30 popular models claimed, on average, these vehicles consumed 23 per cent more fuel when driven on real roads, compared to the advertised fuel economy ratings conducted from tests in laboratory conditions – with similar results from international studies.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are particularly susceptible to inaccurate fuel-economy results, which are standardised as litres of fuel used per 100 kilometres (L/100km).

As plug-in hybrids typically offer battery-only driving for approximately 70-80 kilometres, the amount of fuel used by the vehicle is only tested for 20-30 kilometres – with the figure increasing when the vehicle is driven beyond the 100km test range.

In the AAA’s 2017 study, it found a plug-in hybrid used 166 per cent more fuel than advertised when the battery was charged, and 337 per cent more fuel when the battery was depleted.

Tests for fuel economy and emissions have traditionally been conducted indoors on a dynamometer – a machine also known as a ‘rolling road’, which allows the wheels to drive under load without the vehicle moving – while variables such as temperature are set within a controlled range.

In 2015, US authorities discovered some diesel models from Volkswagen Group brands were using in-built software designed to cheat laboratory emissions tests, far exceeding legal limits when tested on the road.

It’s estimated the industry scandal, now known as ‘Dieselgate’, cost Volkswagen Group more than $AU46.5 billion in fines, compensation, and car buy-back programs – with high-ranking executives prosecuted as recently as June 2023.

Emissions cheating has been a widespread concern for the industry, with many other car companies also alleged to have been conducting similar frauds both here and overseas.

“Australian car buyers have for too long been misled regarding their vehicle’s fuel consumption and environmental performance,” AAA Managing Director Michael Bradley said in a written statement.

“Better information will enable families and fleet buyers to buy vehicles that will meet their budget and environmental requirements.”

The AAA claims its real-world testing protocols are based on the European Union’s Euro 6 assessment, with some changes made to suit local conditions and road rules.

The Australian Government believes the program will “help drive fuel savings through informed consumer choice and help ensure emissions footprint claims by carmakers are accurate.”

Extracted in full from: Australian new-car buyers will soon have real-world fuel economy data – Drive