Generic car transport

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The category /transport/car/generic contains data associated with the greenhouse gas emissions of representative car types sourced from the EPA, the UK government agency DEFRA, and the VCA. This category provides CO2 emissions only and should be considered to represent a useful first point of entry to car-related emissions. If users are interested in more specific and comprehensive datasets (which include CO2 as well as CH4 and N2O emissions) they should see the following categories:

Emissions within this category can be calculated on the basis of fuel consumed or distance travelled. Specific fuel-based and distance-based emissions factors are available, although users have the option of deriving their own distance-based emissions factors based on the fuel emissions factors and details of their vehicles fuel consumption. If using established emissions factors, alternatives are available for the UK (sourced from UK government agency DEFRA) and US/Canada (sourced from the EPA), reflecting the fact that US car models generally have larger engine sizes. The data for petrol hybrids comes from the VCA. Medium petrol hybrid cars are based on the average over the Toyota Prius and Honda IMA and large petrol hybrid cars are based on the average over Lexus GS450h and RX400h. The VCA figures are increased by 15% to account for real world usage.

Selecting car type

To use this category, specify the vehicle fuel type and size via drill down. The fuel drill option contains the following options:

  • petrol
  • diesel
  • petrol-hybrid
  • lpg
  • cng
  • 'average' (represents the average emissions of all types)

Vehicle size is specified using the size drill option, and corresponds with the following engine sizes:

petrol car

  • small: < 1.4 l
  • medium: 1.4 - 2.0 l
  • large: > 2.0 l

diesel car

  • small: < 1.7 l
  • medium: 1.7 - 2.0 l
  • large: > 2.0 l

In the case that US/Canada emissions factors are chosen, the above guidelines for size categories should be increased so that 2.5 litre engines are considered small/medium and 3.5 litre engines medium/large. The data was obtained from the 2008 Fuel Economy Guide published by the US Dept of Energy, available online at

Calculating by fuel consumed

To make calculations according to the quantity of fuel consumed, users need only specify the fuel quantity using the fuelConsumed parameter. The returned value represents CO2 emissions associated with the quantity specified. This is the most accurate method for determining emissions since it makes no assumptions or generalisations regarding the performance, context or efficiency of the vehicle. This calculation method takes precedence over distance-based calculations (see below) - i.e. this calculation will be performed whenever the fuelConsumed parameter is specified.

Calculating by distance

To calculate according to distance, users need to specify at least a distance value, and select between calculations based on either established, generic emissions factors or those derived from fuel consumption data. Occupancy can be specified (see below]) but defaults to a sensible value if not set.

Setting the distance

To specify the distance travelled, set the distance parameter. If users wish to base their emissions calculation on 'typical' car usage, they can alternatively set the useTypicalDistance parameter to 'true', which will return a calculation based on the UK average mileage of 9000 miles per year (equating to 14420 km per year or 1202 km per month).

Using established emissions factors

To use established emissions factors (sourced from the EPA, DEFRA, and the VCA), users need only set the distance parameter (although several further specifications may be made in order to establish more accurate results). If the distance parameter alone is set, the returned amount represents CO2 emissions associated with UK-based car travel according to the distance specified.

Setting the country

Emissions factors relating to both the UK and US/Canada are available, however, and users can switch between each by setting the country parameter to any of the following valid values:

  • 'United Kingdom'
  • 'UK'
  • 'United States'
  • 'US'
  • 'Canada'
  • 'CA'

As described above, if no country parameter is specified, the UK emissions factors are used by default. If calculations are stored using profiles, the country can be specified within the profile metadata. Users should note, however, that directly specified country parameters override any set as profile metadata. This is useful, for example, for recording car journey's outside the user's own country.

Deriving emissions factors from fuel consumption

Instead of using pre-established emissions factors, users can opt to give a vehicle's fuel consumption. This can either be a user's own estimate (self-calculated or perhaps obtained from their in-car computer) or one provided by the manufacturer, and results in a more accurate estimate of the kg CO2 emitted. The specified fuel consumption value is used in conjunction with data on the carbon intensity of the respective fuel type taken from The category /home/energy/quantity to obtain a distance-based emissions factor according to:

Factor(mass CO2 per distance) = fuel carbon intensity(mass CO2 per volume) / fuel consumption(volume per distance)

To specify either a manufacturer or self-calculated fuel consumption rate, set either the fuelConsumption or fuelConsumptionOwn parameter. If the former (i.e. manufacturer) is specified, Discover will inflate the value by 15% to account for real world usage.

Emissions factor modifiers

Emissions factors can be further tweaked to provide more accurate calculations by setting several other parameter which represent factors affecting vehicle fuel consumption. These can be accessed as follows:

  • set tyresUnderinflated = 'true' to specify under-inflated tyres (increases emissions by 1%)
  • set airconFull = 'true' to specify regular use of air conditioning (increases emissions by 20%)
  • set airconTypical = 'false' to 'switch off' the typical-air-conditioning-usage assumption (decreases emissions by 5%)
  • set ecoDriving = 'true' to specify fuel saving driving practices (e.g. avoiding excessive speed, harsh acceleration and braking; decreases emissions by 10%)
  • set regularlyServiced = 'false' to 'switch off' the regular-vehicle-service assumption (increases emissions by 4%)

Note: these are irrelevant and therefore ignored if the user has supplied their "own" estimate of fuel consumption, and only apply if using established, generic emissions factors or an emissions factor derived from manufacturer fuel consumption data.


Users can set multiple occupancy for car travel, which 'shares' the vehicular emissions across all passengers. To specify the number of occupants set the occupants parameter. If no value is set, the calculation will be made on the basis of a single occupant (i.e. the driver) and representing emissions for the entire vehicle journey.

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Set "true", for maximum aircon usage
Set "true", for typical aircon usage
Country in which car used
Specify the distance travelled
Set "true", for eco-conscious driving
Manufacturers fuel consumption rate
Number of occupants
User specified fuel consumption rate
Set "true", is vehicle serviced regularly
Set "true", for underinflated tyres
Set "true", to use the typical distance