EPA Takes Closer Look at ‘Mileage May Vary’

Bloomberg News

The Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has made few changes to the way it rates the fuel econ­o­my of cars since it began test­ing in 1971 – but that may all be chang­ing in the near future.

Find out what “adjust­ments” the EPA now has in mind.

The EPA has made few changes to the way it rates the fuel econ­o­my of cars since it began test­ing in 1971. Man­u­fac­tur­ers put their own vehi­cles, which are usu­al­ly pre-pro­duc­tion pro­to­types, on tread­mill-like devices called dynamome­ters and report results to the agency.

The EPA has used the dis­claimer “your mileage may vary” to warn dri­vers that real-world fuel econ­o­my may not live up to its cer­ti­fied rat­ings. To pre­vent that mantra from becom­ing “but nobody gets that,” the agency is step­ping up the por­tion of vehi­cles it reviews and con­firms for mileage. Also in the works is a data-cus­tomiza­tion project to allow dri­vers to search for what fuel econ­o­my they can real­is­ti­cal­ly expect based on how aggres­sive­ly they dri­ve and under cer­tain con­di­tions.

“There is no high­er pri­or­i­ty for the EPA than to make sure that con­sumers have all the infor­ma­tion they need when they’re mak­ing typ­i­cal­ly the sec­ond-largest pur­chase that they make,” Christo­pher Grundler, the agency’s top auto-indus­try reg­u­la­tor, said in a tele­phone inter­view.

“There’s gen­er­al agree­ment that EPA tests do not reflect real­i­ty,” Peter Appel, a for­mer Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment researcher and now a Wash­ing­ton-based direc­tor at con­sult­ing firm Alix­Part­ners LLP, said by tele­phone. “There have been mod­est fix­es to the EPA test­ing a cou­ple times in the last 30 years. They’re prob­a­bly due for anoth­er one.”

The EPA plans to issue a pro­pos­al with­in the next year to close a loop­hole that gives the same rat­ing to mod­els that use the same engine and trans­mis­sion and fall into the same weight class, even if they are a dif­fer­ent size or shape, Grundler said.

Beyond this rem­e­dy, which address­es how Ford was allowed to assign the rat­ing for its hybrid Fusion sedan to its C-Max wag­on, the EPA has no plans to change how it rates cars pow­ered by a com­bi­na­tion of gas and elec­tric­i­ty.




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