Fuel efficiency, is a form of thermal efficiency, meaning the efficiency of a process that converts chemical potential energy contained in a carrier fuel into kinetic energy or work. Overall fuel efficiency may vary per device, which in turn may vary per application, and this spectrum of variance is often illustrated as a continuous energy profile. Non-transportation applications, such as industry, benefit from increased fuel efficiency, especially fossil fuel power plants or industries dealing with combustion, such as ammonia production during the Haber process. The United States Department of Energy and the EPA maintain a Web site with fuel economy information, including testing results and frequently asked questions.
In the context of transportation, "fuel efficiency" more commonly refers to the energy efficiency of a particular vehicle model, where its total output (range, or "mileage" ) is given as a ratio of range units per a unit amount of input fuel (gasoline, diesel, etc.). This ratio is given in common measures such as "liters per 100 kilometers" (L/100 km) (common in Europe and Canada) or "litres per mil" (Norway/Sweden) or "miles per gallon" (mpg) (prevalent in the USA, UK, and often in Canada, using their respective gallon measurements) or "kilometres per litre"(kmpl) (prevalent in Asian countries such as India and Japan). Though the typical output measure is vehicle range, for certain applications output can also be measured in terms of weight per range units (freight) or individual passenger-range (vehicle range / passenger capacity).
This ratio is based on a car's total properties, including its engine properties, its body drag, weight, and rolling resistance, and as such may vary substantially from the profile of the engine alone. While the thermal efficiency of petroleum engines has improved in recent decades, this does not necessarily translate into fuel economy of cars, as people in developed countries tend to buy bigger and heavier cars (i.e. SUVs will get less range per unit fuel than an economy car).