Jamie Roberts


Since the first-ever car was patented in 1886 by Carl Benz, it’s safe to say that a lot has changed. For many, this signified the birth certificate of the automobile. The first engine in Benz’s vehicles was a one-cylinder two-stroke unit and ran for the first time in 1879. Fast forward over one hundred years and you have the likes of the Lamborghini Aventador, which boasts a huge 6.5-litre, 691BHP engine. But, how have our cars, fuel type, and fuel efficiency changed over the years?

Early Years
Early on in the lifecycle of cars came Henry Ford’s Model T. The vehicle, released in 1908, was a gasoline-powered vehicle that could enjoy usage of up to 21 miles per gallon. However, this impressive stat wasn’t always backed up by other vehicles. In fact, as the years went on, MPG levels began to decline. In 1935, the average vehicle’s fuel efficiency was at around 14 miles per gallon, but further dropped in the ‘70s when vehicles hovered around the 12mpg mark. As the Arab oil embargo started creating a worldwide shortage, fuel prices sky-rocketed, leading to fuel economy being a large selling point for new designs.

Modern Era
Surprisingly, the average car isn’t actually to much more fuel-efficient than cars of yesteryear. Still, to this day, the average vehicle has a range of between 20 and 30 miles per gallon a stat which was very similar in the 1920s. But, why is this? Well, cars are a whole lot bigger. In 1982, the average car weighed approximately 1,385kg. By 2006, the everyday car was approximately 226kg heavier, and of course this figure is continuing to rise. Safety features and technological advances play a big part in this figure, but certain features can actually help improve the MPG ratio. Cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf are a popular choice for drivers due to their efficiency being relevant to their performance.

So, if our fuel efficiency isn’t primarily changing, how are our fuel types developing?

The Electric Surge 
The UK’s government is pushing to cease production of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030. This is seeing the market for electric cars soar. Of course, while electric vehicles are better for the environment, that doesn’t mean they’re always more fuel-efficient. In their infancy, they were unreliable — especially with a distinct lack of charging ports. However, nowadays, some electric vehicles can provide a return of over 100 miles to the gallon (MPGe).

The concept of a Hybrid vehicle was first introduced on the eve of the 20thCentury. However, the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, was launched in 1997 in Japan a bid to combat the unreliability of fully electric vehicles. It hit the European markets in 2000. Now, with a push on fully electric vehicles and their reliability rapidly improving, the miles per gallon ratio is once again becoming a focal point.

Strange as it may sound, in 2017 a car was even fuelled by whiskey! The Scottish company Celtic Renewables Ltd used residue that it claimed was ‘of no value whatsoever to the whiskey industry’ and is a ‘direct replacement for petrol’. The fuel, called biobutanol, has been designed as a direct replacement for the likes of petrol and diesel and doesn’t require a car that has a modified engine. It’s made from the yeasty liquid left over from fermentation and could create a multi-million-pound industry in Scotland if successful.

It’s clear that, while there’s a crossover between fuel efficiency and benefiting the environment, there is still work to be done to improve our miles per gallon ratio. Will the new fuel types help with this?

Jamie Roberts is a content writer based in North East England. Having a background in journalism, he specializes in current affairs, business and environmental topics.