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EPA Suggests Actually Testing Automobile Fuel Economy

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"No More '-ish' Fuel Economy Numbers," says EPA
“No More ‘-ish’ Fuel Economy Numbers,” says EPA

It’s long been known that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) doesn’t actually test most of the cars before it assigns the “official”-ish fuel economy rating sticker, but recent difficulties are pushing the EPA to do better.

For the most part, the EPA may do real-world testing of only a few cars per year. For the rest of the fleet, the EPA depends on the automakers themselves to provide the numbers, which may, or may not, have been derived via actual real-world testing. In order to arrive at official fuel economy ratings, automakers, as well as the EPA, rely more on laboratory test results than actually test-driving the cars. They use a multitude of data points, such as vehicle weight, tire rolling resistance, coefficient of drag (Cd), engine size and power, among others, to arrive at an “ideal” fuel economy number.

Of course, there is room for error and a little bit of “padding,” which some automakers “padded” on the opposite side of caution, leading to two important results. First, people saw fuel economy ratings one or two mpg (miles per gallon) higher than the nearest competitor, which boosted sales for the automaker. Second, once those drivers started driving around, they noted their fuel economy wasn’t anywhere near the official EPA rating. Ford Motor Company and Hyundai / Kia made such a mistake, which has cost them millions in class-action settlements.

Of course, the only real solution to this fuel economypadding the calculations” problem is to actually test the vehicles. Put someone in the car and drive it around some kind of real-world route, just like regular consumers would, and let that number stand as an official, tested, fuel economy rating. The EPA is suggesting as much and, while some automakers already include real-world fuel economy testing, the EPA wants to mandate it, saying, “we are establishing a regulatory requirement for all automakers” according to Director Chris Grundler, of the EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality. Are we on the verge of seeing real-life fuel economy ratings? I certainly hope so!

Photo credit: prettydaisies

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1 COMMENT

  1. Who is the EPA – the
    Feds. . . .  and who does the Federal
    Govt work for?  Not the “people” any more
    (but for Big Business a la ‘trickle-down’ to the people).  That is essentially why the auto industry
    gets a break, and has been doing so since the beginning.
    The latest, egregious
    ‘favor’ to the AI, was to permit an enormously printed average mpg’ figure (at
    10 x larger size), centered directly between the much smaller ‘city mpg’ and the ‘highway
    mpg’ on the automobile MSRP ‘sticker’. 
    Egregious because, in the absence of real world testing, the prominent ‘average
    mpg’ figure is based on simple math, but derived from mpg figures that are, at
    best, guesstimates themselves.  Not to
    mention that the arrangement makes the city/highway figures less or not
    noticeable at all.  The previous gift to the AI
    was permitting it’s ‘caveat emptor’ phrase, “Your Mileage May Vary”.
    All of this being
    said, regardless of the mpg accuracy, there are quite a few (really nice cars)
    with city mpg numbers well below the 20 mpg mark, and they’re selling like
    hotcakes.  And you can trust me, these
    cars are NOT getting the ‘sticker’ mpg. 
    Not because the sticker is wrong, but regardless of the cost p/gallon,
    these cars are not being driven at 55mph (or an otherwise reasonable speed).  In 1973 (I think), arguably the  most comprehensive law ever passed, mandated
    that 55mph would be the National Speed Limit. 
    Comprehensive because, though not intended, the reduction in speed
    (along with rigid enforcement) saved over 10,000 lives in it’s first year.
    Gasoline is King, or
    is big business King, take your pick (or are they one-in-the-same?).  BTW Ford/Lincoln will be sending me a
    check for my 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid because it’s 47/47mpg is not obtainable.

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