Your Mileage Will Vary a Bit Less
Feb. 24, 2007: Source – Kiplinger
The 2007 Toyota Prius squeezed 30 more miles from a gallon than its nearest mid-size competitor, the Nissan Versa, according to the old EPA fuel economy ratings. Beginning in 2008, things aren’t so rosy.
Mileage tests were developed when we more or less channeled our grandmothers’ driving. Cars are run in a lab on a treadmill. The air conditioner is turned off, test speeds are conservative, and there are no fast starts. In 1985, after an EPA study found that drivers were achieving lower fuel economy than predicted by the tests, the agency concocted a formula on paper to lower the official figures. But the formula didn’t bring the numbers down far enough, and in 2002, the environmental group Bluewater Network (a division of Friends of the Earth) petitioned the EPA to update its procedures.
The new standards will get closer to reality by factoring in higher speeds, stop-and-go driving, more-aggressive acceleration, use of air conditioning and driving in colder temperatures. Mileage will still vary, but the tests will reduce estimated city mpg by 12%, on average, and highway mpg by 8%, according to the EPA. Hybrids’ fuel economy is likely to get a haircut of up to 30% for city driving and 20% for highway.
Fuel economy for the Prius (EPA’s highest-ranked vehicle) dropped 20% overall to 46 mpg, a number that owners are likely to cheer. Most of them either come close or exceed it, according to those reporting on greenhybrid.com.
The changes will certainly help consumers looking for fuel efficiency. Still, it seems ludicrous that a luxury car like the five-passenger Hummer H2—the darling of business owners who covet a tax break meant for farmers—is spared from testing because it exceeds the 8500 pound gross vehicle weight limit. Maybe such random thresholds should be the next target of groups like Bluewater Network.
You can see how your vehicle fares under both the old and new regimes using a calculator supplied by the EPA.