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EPA wants automakers to verify mileage claims with road tests

Proposal to include more real-world testing stems from customer complaints, lawsuits.

By Douglas Newcomb Jul 16, 2014 9:02AM

EPA fuel rating window sticker.Following recent high-profile revisions of fuel economy ratings by Ford, Hyundai and Kia —  and a rash of consumer complaints and lawsuits — the Environmental Protection Agency wants to require automakers to road test vehicles to verify the fuel economy claims that get posted on a car’s window sticker.

“Some automakers already do this,” Chris Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told The Wall Street Journal, “but we are establishing a regulatory requirement for all automakers.”

Although the agency confirms about 10 to 15 percent of automakers’ fuel economy claims through its own tests each year at the National Vehicles and Fuel Emissions Laboratory and regularly revises its testing requirements (most recently in 2008), fuel economy is otherwise measured by automakers and reported to the EPA. Testing is performed “under controlled conditions in a laboratory using a standardized test procedure specified by federal law,” according to the EPA, usually with pre-production prototype vehicles.

The EPA said that the difference between a driver’s actual mileage and the window sticker rating is among the most frequent consumer complaints it receives. The EPA proposal to require real-world testing, which will include a public comment period before being adopted, would make it difficult for automakers to fudge test results to deliver higher mileage claims.

Last month Ford cut fuel economy estimates on nine models for the second time in less than a year after it overstated test results. The mileage estimates of all Ford hybrids and plug-in hybrids from 2013-2014 came under scrutiny by the EPA and it was revealed that the results were based on poor testing conditions and faulty engineering practices.

Hyundai is being sued by consumers in South Korea over accusations it overstated the fuel efficiency of the Santa Fe crossover, while in 2012 sister company Kia apologized and compensated owners for overstating mileage estimates on vehicles sold in the U.S.

Even though automakers currently test vehicles for fuel economy using dynamometers and wind tunnels that simulates the real-world driving, The Wall Street Journal reported that the EPA’s proposal would reflect air resistance and rolling friction on a test track rather than in a lab. It added that these factors can affect fuel economy considerably, particularly with hybrids.

[Source: Automotive News]

Jul 18, 2014 6:15AM
Why don't the new fuel mileage numbers reflect using ethanol fuel since that is about all one can find in regular gas anymore. It seems to be about a 10% reduction in mpg's. The EPA needs to rate the new fuel mileage with ethanol fuel. That's the real world.
Jul 17, 2014 4:01AM
There are so many factors that effect mileage.  I would think a car buyer would know the estimates on a vehicle sticker are just that - estimates based on perfect conditions. 
Jul 17, 2014 10:08AM
You do not have to be a "lead foot" to not achieve the mpg that the manufacturer states that the vehicle gets. They test them in "perfect" conditions so if you even live in a hilly area you are most likely not going to get what they tell you you might.
  Ford is in trouble for  inflating their mileage claims, not because people drove the cars more aggressively than in a perfect condition. Even Ford admits they were wrong.
  As for Jim's statement, you are assuming that everyone has common sense and understands a little bit of Physics. Obviously many do not and they believe what is printed on that label. I am all for the mpg estimates being redone to show what will be achieved  actual conditions instead of perfect conditions.

Jul 18, 2014 6:26AM
Honda has been caught cheating in the past by re-programming the mileage indicators on their cars to record more miles then they should have to indicate that the cars go farther on a gallon of gas.   I think that is a point that should be mentioned in this article.
Jul 18, 2014 5:53AM

Our 2014 Ford Fusion exceeded the hi way mileage claims and equaled the city mileage... I have never had an automobile that could get close.. must have been a Wednesday  built Fusin that we purchased.

Jul 18, 2014 5:52AM
This is not that hard.  Just set up one 200 mile course somewhere with both city and highway driving.  Test the cars on the course.  Publish one overall number.  Haw hard can this be?
Jul 18, 2014 6:13AM
Have a Nissan frontier 2.5 L 4 cyl...   it lists mpg @ 17 -24.. . it never gets better than 15.5 - 17 mpg.  corporate Nissan is unfazed and maintains those are only estimates and are soley the responsibility of EPA.  has a " sucks to be you attitude" and neither the dealer nor corporate or EPA were willing to deal with nor resolve the issue. 
Jul 18, 2014 5:50AM
About time.  Honda also was caught exaggerating MPG.  

This reminds me of bicycle weight claims from when I worked in that biz'.  Most of the makers (excepting Univega) lied through their teeth. Lotus and Fuji were among the worst offenders back then. 
Jul 18, 2014 5:46AM
Jul 18, 2014 5:56AM
I've been beating EPA estimates on both of my newer cars.  a 2014 mustang gt that gets 26-29mpg on road trips (rated at 26) and 23 mpg on my regular city-highway mixed commute (20mpg rated).  My jetta diesel gets 37mpg in the city, 49 mpg city while it's rated for (30 city, 42 highway, 36 combined)  43 mpg combined.  So it really is just your driving.  Sorry if it offends you, but the a good driver can easily match or beat epa estimates.
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