The One-Tonne Race

How far can your car travel on one tonne of carbon dioxide?

In light of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) report (SMMT 2012) showing that average new car CO₂ emissions fell from 181 gCO2/km in 2000 to 138.1 gCO2/km in 2011, we ask: how far can your car travel emitting only one tonne of carbon dioxide?

We selected 10 vehicle models available for purchase in the UK with published carbon dioxide (CO₂) emission figures, and hypothetically raced them from London towards Kuala Lumpur (we chose this route because an economy class flight from London to Kuala Lumpur emits approximately one tonne of CO₂ (Jarrett 2012)). When each model of car had emitted one tonne of CO₂, it dropped out of the race.

None of our selected models of cars reached Kuala Lumpur on one tonne of CO₂. The most CO₂ efficient model we tested travelled 11,815km before reaching the one tonne of CO₂ limit in the jungles of Burma, 2,613km short of Kuala Lumpur. The winning vehicle travelled an astonishing 5 times further than the least CO₂ efficient model we tested.

The distances hypothetically travelled by the selected cars are based on published emissions figures taken from the Vehicle Certification Authority (VCA 2012). In reality, the amount of CO₂ emitted per kilometre travelled depends on a number of factors, including driving style, the ups and downs of the route, road conditions, and how laden the car is. As such, this analysis provides an approximate estimate of how far these cars could travel on a one tonne of CO₂ allowance.

The Route

The route for the One-Tonne Race was identified using Google Maps route planner. The 14,378 kilometre journey, following major roads, starts in London, England (taking the Euro-star across the Channel) and continues through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Burma, and finally into Malaysia, and the final destination, Kuala Lumpur.

One Tonne Race Map

The Contenders

The ten selected cars (in alphabetical order) were:

Aston Martin DBS V12 Carbon Edition Volante (petrol)
• Audi RS Roadster 2 door (petrol)
• BMW X6 M (petrol)
• Ferrari 599 GTO (petrol)
• Fiat Punto Evo GP 1.4 8v (petrol)
• Ford Ka 1.3 Duratorq 75PS (diesel)
• Kia Rio 1 1.1 CRD (diesel)
• Porsche Boxster 2.9 litres (petrol)
• Toyota Avensis TR 2.0 D-4D (diesel)
• Vauxhall Astra SRI 1.6l 16V Turbo 180PS 5dr hatch (diesel)

The Race

The ten selected cars set off from London, England and all made it safely through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.

The first casualty, and overall loser in the One-Tonne Race was the Ferrari 599 GTO (10th and last), which used up the last of its tonne of CO₂ allowance in Bulgaria, and was left stranded near the town of Dragoman, having only covered around 17% of the journey from London to Kuala Lumpur.

Next to drop out of the race was the Aston Martin Volante Carbon Edition (9th) which fared little better, travelling onwards to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, before its tonne of CO2 was exhausted.

The BMW X6 (8th) made it to Istanbul in Turkey, the Porsche (7th) to the outskirts of Yerevan in Armenia, and the Audi Roadster (6th) ran out of its CO₂ allowance in the steppes of Azerbaijan.

The Vauxhall Astra (5th) and the Fiat Punto (4th) made it to Tehran in Iran, and Kabul, Afghanistan respectively.

The Toyota Avensis (3rd) exhausted its CO2 allowance on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, leaving the Ford Ka and the Kia Rio battling to win the inaugural Ecometrica One-Tonne Race.

The Kia Rio made it successfully over the plains of northern India, across the Himalayan foothills, and onwards into the jungles of Burma. The Ford Ka (2nd), however, was stranded on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, finishing a very creditable second place.

None of our selected cars made it all the way from London to Kuala Lumpur on one tonne of CO₂, but the Kia Rio (1st) was the overall winner, travelling 11,765km through 17 countries to Burma, before emitting the last of its CO₂, still 2,613km short of Kuala Lumpur.

The Kia Rio, in winning the race, travelled almost five times further on one tonne of CO₂ than the overall loser, the Ferrari 599 GTO.


The distances travelled and finishing positions of the cars we tested in the One-Tonne Race, with their published emissions figures (VCA 2012), are available in the full paper, which can be downloaded at the link below:

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Find out more about new car CO2 emissions.

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Date Published: June 25, 2012



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