As NAFA President Claude Masters shared while participating on a Calstart panel during NAFA I&E, he’d once heard a conference speaker say that his Toyota Prius was only getting miles per gallon in the low 40s and not the 50 mpg the automaker has claimed. Masters raised his hand and commented that he’d seen the speaker race by him on the highway going over 90 miles per hour – and he saw an obvious corollary between the speeding and the reduced mpg.
Carnegie Mellon University researchers have found that driving conditions are a critical aspect to mileage achieved by hybrid electric vehicles, along with plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. The study, “Influence of Driving Patterns on Life Cycle Cost and Emissions for Hybrid and Plug-in Electric Vehicle Powertrains” was released during a time with the Environmental Protection Agency is working on new fuel economy labels starting with 2013 vehicles. The stickers will offer information on vehicle performance – all-electric range, fuel economy, estimated annual fuel cost, emissions, and smog rating. Consumers will be given more information for purchase decisions, but the labels are lacking critical comparison data about driving conditions, the report said.
Tested in New York City driving conditions – under various scenarios and simulated driving conditions – the study found that hybrid and plug-in vehicles can cut life cycle emissions by 60% and reduce costs up to 20% relative to conventional vehicles. Aggressive driving styles with high acceleration do take their toll on electric vehicles – range can be reduced by up to 45% under these types of driving conditions compared to milder test cycles. Hybrids and EVs are generally costing more than conventional vehicles, so driver education and monitoring needs to happen to make it all worthwhile.