The Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) compiles and publishes estimated fuel-consumption ratings for passenger cars, light-duty pickup trucks, vans, and special purpose vehicles sold in Canada in it’s annual Fuel Consumption Guide.
Never heard of them? Well, I bet you have seen their numbers when looking at new vehicles (displayed in the window sticker):
While some people will disagree on the accuracy of estimating fuel consumption data (especially when it comes to comparing the estimates to real world usage) – there is a still great deal of useful data to work with – especially when it comes to comparing vehicles to each other.
The issue for me, however, is the same one I faced when trying to view Property Tax Assessment information in New Brunswick – the website used to view this data is very frustrating to use.
Viewing the Fuel Consumption Guide Data Online
OEE provides two links that anyone can use to work with their data:
- Viewing a list of vehicles for a specific manufacturer (by a specific vehicle type for a specific year)
- Comparing vehicles (by year, vehicle type, manufacturer, and model)
I find both of the provided forms tedius to use to quickly get data for comparison purposes. Also, don’t even think about pressing the back button to change a previously selected option, it will simply force you to start over from the beginning.
The results are equally disappointing - a static table that can not be manipulated (no sorting) and very difficult to read.
Honestly, how many people would know a Class of P is a “Special Purpose Vehicle“, X is “Regular fuel”, and V is an “Automatic“?
Luckily, the Fuel Consumption data is actually available in PDF and HTML format for each year (they only show 2011 and 2010 inside the link below; but, you can change the year inside the URL to view other years):
My Alternate Interface
Before I could work on an interface, I first needed data.
Using the HTML versions above, I created an Excel spreadsheet (with a tab for each year). I then pasted in the HTML data (a very tedious process) into each tab:
I then wrote an adapter that reads the Excel spreadsheet and populates a database.
Like all government data I have ever worked with, I quickly found that the format (and those funny codes I mentioned above) change from year to year for no clear reason. This adapter then had to be updated a great deal to read the data and populate the database in a consistent format:
Once this was completed, it was easy to stub out a ASP.NET MVC3 application that reads the data and puts it into a nice grid that clearly states what the data means.
I’ve also updated it to allow for more advanced filtering and sorting – something that can easily be done from the same screen (and the back button works too)!
Try the demo!
You can try out the demo yourself by clicking here. Be sure to share this link with your friends.
Ideas Going Forward
While the application is generally functional, I think there is still a great deal that can still be done!
One idea was to factor in more “realistic consumption numbers” – perhaps adding 2-3 L/100KM to each number, and allowing users to enter the price of gas in their area to generate more realistic “cost per year” numbers.
Another idea was to introduce some graphs to make things more visually appealing. I think some comparisons between manufacturers/vehicle types would be an interesting way to introduce this.
Maybe there is more open data available that could be integrated with this as well – be sure to let me know if you have ideas on this!
I’d also like to make the “Model” field into a listbox as well – to make it easier to filter the results by a list of models (opposed to limiting to specific text as exists now).
The application is also built to be localized – I just need to take some time to do it.
Add your feedback
Please comment below with your feedback (good or bad) along with any ideas or suggestions for improvement!
For more information on the Fuel Consumption Guide, check out the following links: