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The Environmental Protection Agency says it will propose by the end of this year significant changes to the way it estimates automobile fuel economy ratings -- the miles-per-gallon numbers shoppers see on price stickers in the windows of trucks and cars.

The agency has long been faulted for test methods, based on decades-old driving habits, that in most cases overestimate the miles per gallon drivers can expect. The EPA is acting as consumer groups such as traveler-friendly American Automobile Association and Consumers Union, a nonprofit advocacy group, are calling for such changes, and consumers, spurred by the latest surge in gasoline prices, are paying more attention to their fuel consumption.

The agency said three changes will be at the core of its proposal:

Alter testing to reflect today's more aggressive and high-speed driving habits, as well as address traffic-stifling congestion in cities and expanding suburbs.

Account for vehicles driven in cold climates, where fuel economy suffers.

Calculate the impact of accessories, such as air conditioners, that cut fuel economy.

''My hope is, by the end of this year, we will have a proposed regulation published," Margo Oge, the EPA's director of transportation and air quality, said in a telephone interview last week .

The planned changes would put the EPA ''much more in line with our testing," said Jeffrey Asher, vice president and technical director at Consumer Reports, published by Consumers Union. A survey of 303 vehicles among those the magazine tested for the model years 2000-2006 -- each driven 8,000 to 10,000 miles -- found that, in 90 percent of the cases, EPA mileage estimates were inflated, in some cases grossly so.

Oge said the latest outcry has come from gas-conscious owners of new hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius who were expecting to get 50 or more miles per gallon based on EPA numbers. But in cold climates such as New England's, motorists sometimes get less than 40 miles per gallon. She said the agency has been studying the overall problem for a long time now.

The auto industry has opposed updating the EPA's mileage tests. Automakers have long benefited from fuel economy ratings often far higher than those found in real-world driving, and not just in selling vehicles to cautious consumers.

The same mileage estimates are used by the auto companies as they attempt to meet federal regulations that require their fleets of cars and trucks to achieve designated average miles per gallon goals. Today's rules, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, require a company's fleet of cars to average 27.5 miles per gallon and light trucks, including SUVs, 21.0 miles per gallon.

Because companies are having a difficult time meeting efficiency goals even as they benefit from inflated numbers, any major change in EPA testing methods could have ''a direct and adverse affect on CAFE compliance," said Eron Shosteck, director of communications for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group of foreign and domestic automobile builders



Read more of the article here:

http://www.boston.com/cars/articles/2005/09/18/epa_plans_to_revamp_mileage_testing/
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I guess I might as well make it easier for you guys and post the rest of it right here...



But within the industry, many executives acknowledge the flaws. The EPA numbers mean ''absolutely nothing in terms of the real world," said David Lee, a product education administrator at University of Toyota, the company's training department, in Torrance, Calif. They are only valuable, he said, as one way of making vehicle-to-vehicle comparisons.

Consumer Reports tests showed vehicles falling 40 and 50 percent below EPA estimates in city fuel economy. Consumer Reports buys the vehicles it tests and, over months of real-world driving, calculates its own mileage figures.

How can federal tests be so far off?

Vehicles tested for EPA ratings are tested not by the EPA, but by auto manufacturers using EPA standards. The firms submit their results to the agency, which duplicates the tests in 10 percent of cases to check for accuracy, Oge said.

Wheels of the test vehicles, which can be optimized models, never turn on real pavement. The testing is done on dynamometers, treadmills for vehicles, calibrated to simulate real-life conditions.

The EPA test is based on 30-year-old standards. The city test requires that a vehicle be run for 11 simulated miles with 23 stops, about 5 minutes of idle time, at an average speed of 21 miles per hour; on the highway, a 10-mile drive, and the average speed is 48 miles per hour on a smooth road.

The tests do not account for extreme temperatures, the use of air conditioners, bad road conditions, or increased urban and suburban traffic jams that come with suburban sprawl-- all of which can reduce fuel efficiency. Eleven miles of city driving today will probably mean more than five minutes spent idling at lights or in stalled traffic. And further, today's drivers reduce their mileage by being far more aggressive in moving from intersections and passing each other on state roads, suburban roads, and at urban intersections.

''There's a lot of 'stoplight drag racing,' " said Toyota spokesman Wade Hoyt.

And it can be safely said that no one averages 48 miles per hour on highways where the speed limit has crept up from 55 to 65 on some stretches of the interstate. That increase alone would account for a 10 percent hike in fuel use, AAA estimates.

In 1985, the EPA acknowledged that its test base was flawed. It did not, however, change the test methods. Instead, it instituted a formula that lowers the test's city results by 10 percent and highway results by 22 percent.

Don MacKenzie, vehicle engineer with Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge-based nonprofit partnership of scientists and citizens promoting practical environmental solutions, called the math ''a fudge factor."

Once the EPA details its proposed changes in how the tests are conducted, public hearings will be held. If the updates advance, it can take about one year to complete, meaning the 2007 model year could be the first under the new rules, the agency said.

''There is no perfect test," Oge said, that will show, on an individual basis, how any single vehicle will perform.

That is because driving habits differ, said MacKenzie, and so do owners' care of their vehicles

But accurate testing, MacKenzie said, would give drivers a firm base from which to measure their own habits against the potential performance of a vehicle, by asking key questions such as ''How do I drive? What conditions do I drive in? Do I use the AC a lot?"
 

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How about this instead. Since Consumer Reports already has a widely recognized, apparently objective, reliable, realisitc mileage testing program in place, the EPA gives them a big grant of money (no strings attached) for the right to publish CR results on the window sticker ?

The EPA can use the rest of their budget for more clean air work. The public benefits from valid information. CR benefits since they are always strapped for money because they rightfully do not take advertising or corporate donations. The govt benefits because they are posting realistic info.
 

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It is about time the EPA got their head out of the sand and decided to do something about their testing issue.

The idea of giving CR a grant to acomplish this is a good one. CRs testing regime for just about everything is good, however I have never purchased a vehicle on CRs recommendation and find their testing of things like toasters and coffee makers kind of rediculous. Where science meets small consumer goods usually leads to a less than stellar recommendation and totally forgets how well a toaster of coffee maker is actually going to fit in your kitchen. Coffee is subjective anyway.

But FE is not subjective. Granted, CR could easily do the FE testing or be the FE clearing house and do a very good job of it, but will the EPA let go of that feather.
 

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Actually, FE is quite subjective. Just peruse around this site looking at MPG and on PriusChat, and you get numbers from 35MPG to 65MPG.

Factors include: AC/heat use, wind speed and direction, length of trip, speed of trip, idle time within the trip (absolute and %), acceleration rate, deceleration rate, outdoor temperature, tire pressures, oil level, fuel tank levels, ETC ETC ETC. Some cars are more sensitive to each of these variables than others.

I think what you are going to find is that when the tests are changed, you are still going to get people who do worse, and many who do much better. When the MPGs climb, the spread from worse to best become wider, even if the % deviation doesn't change much from the average. Nobody's going to be happy no matter what test is done.
 

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:roll: Had to chuckle today when a radio advertisement for a luxury sedan touted the "Miles per tank" statistic (as contrasted to "Miles per Gallon") The ad reads in part "...You do the math..." If you do the math, you will see the manufacturer used the EPA highway mileage figure and the full tank capacity.

I just glanced at my MFD indicated mileage at 44.6 mpg (city - short trips) and A BIG GRIN ERUPTED ON MY FACE.
 

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Correctamente ! No test will satisfy all needs.
 

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I agree in the concept of purchasing anonymously for the tests, but here's the problem. The tests need to be done before the vehicle can be sold. Otherwise, what mileage efficiency will be stamped on the sticker when the EPA comes to purchase them to test?

There's a hole in the bucket Uriah...
 

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DanMan32 said:
I agree in the concept of purchasing anonymously for the tests, but here's the problem. The tests need to be done before the vehicle can be sold. Otherwise, what mileage efficiency will be stamped on the sticker when the EPA comes to purchase them to test?

There's a hole in the bucket Uriah...
Fair question.
 

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An04Prius said:
2nd choice: EPA tester shows up, unannounced, at production line plant, randomly chooses a test unit as it comes off the line.
So the manufacturer just makes all of their 'test units' higher mileage at higher cost than the final production units will be. (In the Prius' case, just don't enable the emission-saving 'keep the engine warm at all costs' programming.)
 

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How about a combination of the two? Random pick off the assembly line before initial sales, then a while later, pick it off of a dealer's lot for verification.
 
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