The Seasonal Impacts on Vehicle Fuel Consumption: A Study of a VW Atlas in Canadian Climate Variations

Vehicle fuel consumption is a vital concern for many motorists, especially those in regions with extreme temperature fluctuations, such as Canada. While many factors influence fuel efficiency, including the vehicle's make, model, and driving style, seasonal temperature variations play a significant role. So, over the past 3 months, and having some of the most spread variations, I was able to record the average fuel consumption of my V6 VW Atlas. So, after finishing it up, I come up with this article delves into how seasonal weather changes – specifically comparing summer and winter impact the fuel consumption of a vehicle.

The Role of Temperature

The reason behind the impact of temperature on fuel consumption is multifaceted. In colder climates, vehicles have to work harder due to several factors:

  1. Engine and Oil Efficiency: Engines are most efficient when they reach their 'optimum' temperature, typically between 90 and 100 degrees Celsius. In colder weather, it takes longer for engines to reach this temperature, resulting in higher fuel consumption.
  2. Tire Pressure: Cold temperatures reduce tire pressure, increasing the 'rolling resistance', which causes vehicles to use more fuel.
  3. Battery Performance: Lower temperatures decrease the battery's output, demanding more energy from the alternator and thus more fuel.
  4. Vehicle Accessories: The use of heaters, defrosting systems, and heated seats also contributes to higher fuel consumption.
  5. Remote starter: This also plays a key role and, as my calculations are based on the actual record of the vehicle, this also plays a role.

In contrast, summer temperatures allow engines to warm up more quickly and maintain optimal performance. However, excessive use of air conditioning can increase fuel consumption. But, in general, the effects of cold weather are typically more impactful than those of warmer climates on fuel consumption.

An Empirical Overview

To better visualize the impact of temperature on fuel consumption, I took note of the average consumption of the V6 2021 Volkswagen Atlas after an average full tank consumption. For the sake of this comparison, we will not consider other factors like wind speed and humidity and the big role that "highway/city" kilometers. I kind of kept the same routine across the temperature scenarios:

  • At -20 °C: 13.1 L/100 km
  • At -10 °C: 11.6 L/100 km
  • At 0 °C: 10.6 L/100 km
  • At 10 °C: 9.7 L/100 km
  • At 20 °C: 9.1 L/100 km

These figures represent an increase in fuel consumption of around 12-28% at -20 °C compared to 20 °C. This provides clear evidence of the impact of temperature on fuel consumption.

That's it!

Yes, it is normal that we spend more fuel in winter as more energy "is required" to deal with the weather. And it is fine, but just tought it was going to be interested to know about how much that meant.

And how about EVs? Well, as vehicle manufacturers continue to invest in technologies to improve fuel efficiency, we may see changes in these patterns. Electric vehicles, in particular, are set to change the landscape. However, they also face challenges in cold climates, with battery efficiency dropping in colder conditions.

In conclusion, temperature indeed has a considerable impact on vehicle fuel consumption. Canadian drivers must take this into consideration when calculating their fuel budgets. It's crucial to maintain vehicles properly in terms of oil changes, tire pressure checks, and battery maintenance to optimize fuel efficiency. Furthermore, moderate use of heating and cooling accessories can also help manage fuel consumption across the

About the author

Jorge Diaz is a passionate car lover, winter driver & Software Engineer. For the last 10 years, he has built Online Solutions used by more than 5,000 companies across the globe. He founded LeaseCosts in 2016 with the purpose of simplifying and helping Canadians to better understand the complex market of car leasing in Canada. You can connect with him at

Jorge is also the author of Car Leasing Done Right: A Canadian Guide for Understanding & Optimizing Vehicle Leasing Costs, released on Nov. 5th, 2021. It is available at