Writer Criticizes ‘Bogus’ EPA Ratings For Poor EV Sales

WindowStickerEven at the best of times, introducing new technology can be painful. Teething problems, false starts and high initial costs are all part of the deal.

The same holds true for the gradual electrification of vehicles, which despite billions of dollars in investment still only makes up a fraction of the cars, trucks and SUVs sold every year.

Dylan Tweney, a writer at Venture Beat and owner of a plug-in Toyota Prius, takes aim at what he believes are the real culprits in EVs slow popularity crawl: the EPA and its miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) ratings.

“Sometimes, the advantages of a new technology are unclear because people are evaluating it with an outdated metric,” he says. “We’re saving an enormous amount of money by driving on electricity instead of gas, but none of that savings was obvious before we bought the car.”

Tweney says the MPGe ratings, introduced in 2011 and mandatory on Monroney (window) stickers ever since, isn’t very clear when comparing EVs to gas-powered models.

“What does it mean that an electric car like the Nissan Leaf has an MPGe of 126 city/101 highway or that the Tesla Model S gets 95? These cars never consume gasoline at all, so those figures are purely imaginary. It’s hard to translate these numbers into a measure of what the economics of these cars really are.

He says other information on the stickers — in much smaller print, mind you — discussing how many kwh per 100 miles on electricity and gallons of gas per 100 miles on the gas engine are easier to grasp.

Despite the Prius plug-in only having an EV-only range of 10 or 11 miles, the 3 kwh required to fill the battery only costs about 25 cents at night, meaning 2.5 cents per mile. In “regular” gas-burning mode, the Prius still delivers excellent economy relative to rivals at 10 cents a miles. It has saved his family significant money — “over $100 per month, or almost half the cost of the car’s lease.” — especially compared with the family’s old Mazda minivan, which Tweney says averages about 21 cents a mile, or nearly 10 times as much as the EV-mode Prius.

However, the uncertainty about variable electricity prices adds just as much confusion to the mix.

“Electricity prices are not only variable, they are not at all transparent. You can’t look them up on PG&E’s Web site. So it is almost impossible to make this calculation until you actually drive the car home and try it out for a while and then look at your utility bill.”

The combination of “outdated means of measurement” and “the market for electricity [remaining] opaque, few people will be able to figure out whether they’re worth it.”