In a recent European comparison, Finland has been recognized for having the most fuel-efficient driving habits, particularly in the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles. According to a spring 2024 report by the European Commission, these vehicles consume the least fuel in Finland, a testament to the country’s effective charging infrastructure and substantial investments in vehicle electrification.

The European Commission's inaugural report on the real-world fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of new cars draws from a sample of 600,000 vehicles.

Since the beginning of 2021, the EU has required a fuel consumption monitoring system for all new passenger and light commercial vehicles. The report highlights that actual consumption tends to exceed the figures estimated by the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), which is conducted under controlled laboratory conditions to provide comparable data across different vehicle models.

Overall, vehicles in Europe typically consume about 20% more fuel and emit more CO2 in real-world conditions than WLTP estimates suggest. However, Finnish drivers show the smallest discrepancy, with only a 13% difference in gasoline cars and about a 6% difference in diesel vehicles, indicating a national preference for economic driving.

Tero Lausala, CEO of the Central Organization of Motor Trades and Repairs, attributes this achievement to the driving conditions in Finland, including long distances and consistent highway speeds, which are conducive to economical driving.

The report places Sweden second, where the discrepancies between real-world data and WLTP estimates are slightly higher than in Finland. On the other end of the spectrum, countries like Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, and Romania see discrepancies exceeding 30%.

Plug-in hybrids, despite their complexities in measuring true fuel consumption and emissions in lab conditions, show that Finnish plug-in hybrids perform better than their European counterparts. The typical consumption increase over WLTP values is 176% in Finland, compared to a 236% average across Europe, translating into significantly lower CO2 emissions.

The success in Finland can largely be credited to government incentives for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which have notably ended but left a lasting impact. Over 80,000 charging stations have been installed in residential buildings through subsidies provided by the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA).

Looking forward, despite the cessation of subsidies, the need for expanding the public charging network remains critical, especially for AC (alternating current) charging stations, which are predominantly used by plug-in hybrids. Jouko Sohlberg, Technical Director of the Central Organization of Motor Trades and Repairs, emphasizes the importance of expanding the AC charging infrastructure to keep pace with the growing number of electric vehicles.

As plug-in hybrids gain popularity and become more accessible in the used car market, their potential for reducing emissions will depend significantly on the availability of regular charging opportunities. This aligns with the preferences of Finnish households, where plug-in hybrids are becoming increasingly desired as the next vehicle purchase, second only to gasoline cars.

The Finnish commitment to sustainable driving practices and the societal shift towards plug-in hybrids indicate a future where both community and environment benefit from smarter, cleaner transportation choices.