Huff, S., West, B., and Thomas, J., "Effects of Air Conditioner Use on Real-World Fuel Economy," SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-0551, 2013, doi:10.4271/2013-01-0551.
On-road and laboratory experiments with a 2009 Ford Explorer and a 2009 Toyota Corolla were conducted to assess the fuel consumption penalty associated with air conditioner (A/C) use at idle and highway cruise conditions. Vehicle data were acquired on-road and on a chassis dynamometer. Data were gathered for various A/C settings and with the A/C off and the windows open. At steady speeds between 64.4 and 113 kph (40 and 70 mph), both vehicles consumed more fuel with the A/C on at maximum cooling load (compressor at 100% duty cycle) than when driving with the windows down. The Explorer maintained this trend beyond 113 kph (70 mph), while the Corolla fuel consumption with the windows down matched that of running the A/C at 121 kph (75 mph), and exceeded it at 129 kph (80 mph). The incremental fuel consumption rate penalty due to air conditioner use was nearly constant with a slight trend of increasing consumption with increasing vehicle (and compressor) speed. A lower fuel penalty due to A/C operation is observed at idle for both vehicles, likely due to the low compressor speed at this operating point, although the percentage increase due to A/C use is highest at idle.