EPA Broadening Fuel Economy And Emissions Testing With Real-World Data

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be broadening vehicle emissions tests more than ever, with consumer experience in real-world fuel economy included in the data.

Christoper Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, outlined how the agency’s Ann Arbor, Mich., test lab will be adding more engine powertrains and other data to the evaluation process. As reported by Automotive News, Grundler spoke yesterday during the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., on how the agency is making changes to address deceptive practices that Volkswagen and other automakers have been charged with since 2015.

Grundler also spoke about the Trump administration’s April 1, 2018, deadline for receiving feedback on the 2022-2025 fuel economy standards. Realistic fuel economy ratings are being emphasized during the review period, he said.

The EPA research team in Ann Arbor will be adding powertrains such as a diesel engine, a 10-speed transmission, and a smaller, turbocharged engine. Also included will be Toyota’s new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s gained a thermal efficiency rating of 41 percent.

Study findings will be augmented with consumer data purchased by the EPA from outside sources. One facet will be survey data on what consumers really think about real-world fuel economy in their vehicles. While he didn’t identify any sources, Grundler cited survey questions, similar to what’s typically asked on J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey, Automotive News reported.

The mid-term evaluation process through next spring will take a broader approach to setting the fuel economy and emissions standards than what had been approved in the closing days of the Obama administration. After much lobbying was done by automakers, the Trump administration reopened the midterm review in March.

Originally set at “54.5” mpg for 2025 model year vehicles, that’s since been readjusted down to 50.8 mpg as low gasoline prices have motivated consumers to buy more SUVs, crossovers, and pickups instead of cars. The standard was originally written to be adjusted to new vehicle sales data.

That equates to a corporate average fuel economy standard governing automakers, but the actual performance data will be closer to what car buyers see on EPA window stickers at dealerships. That’s expected to be end up in the high-30s mpg by 2025.

One change being enacted by the EPA is making sure that testing methods are uniform across all its labs, and that test data gets certified by other labs for accuracy. Streamlining and simplifying overlapping and confusing rules, regulations, and laws governing fuels is another project taken on by the EPA, Grundler said.

“The midterm review is another golden opportunity for us to rethink how well the regulations are working and to improve them,” Grundler said. “You have heard me say from this exact podium that with all the changes going on in this business, we in the public sector ought to be willing to rethink and change the way we do business and how we are approaching this, and I still believe that.”

The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had been directed to conduct a robust, transparent, and inclusive review process. The midterm review includes more up-to-date information and more time to coordinate efforts with NHTSA, Grundler said.

SEE ALSO: Trump Cutting EPA Emissions Test Lab And Wants Automakers To Pay For It

The federal agency is working with automakers, suppliers, the California Air Resources Board, and government agencies in Europe and China for more sources of data collection, he said.

Grundler wants to make sure fuel economy and emissions evaluations are based more on experiential data once the vehicles are driven many miles by their owners, rather than on speculative fuel economy ratings.

“We are also stepping up our work to test vehicles once they are in customers’ hands. We’re developing new screening methods to ensure these engines are behaving in the real world in a correlated manner when we test them in the laboratory, so we no longer have defeat-device cases to pursue,” he said.

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