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.