EPA To Closely Scrutinize MPG Tests

2013 Ford C-Max Energi

Between consumer tastes and government mandates, automakers have been scrambling to offer more fuel efficient vehicles. The pressure led to some overly-generous MPG ratings, which in turn led to lawsuits and downwardly-corrected MPG numbers. Now the EPA wants to take a closer look at the testing methods used by automakers, reports Automotive News.

Ford and Kia/Hyundai have taken the hardest hits from consumers complaining about lower-than-expected real world MPG ratings, which has led the EPA to reevaluate certain testing procedures. Under particular scrutiny is the 80 MPH “coast down” test, which is designed to testing aerodynamic friction by having the car cost to a stop from highway speeds. Automakers apply this test differently, leading to more favorable MPG ratings that have become something of a scandal over in Europe as well.

Also under consideration is the closure of a loophole that allows cars with similar weights and drivetrains to get the same fuel economy ratings without further testing. The EPA will also commit to doing more MPG audits, as automakers are basically placed on an honor system when it comes to MPG ratings, with the government agency testing just a small fraction of the cars for itself. This loophole allowed Ford to apply higher-than-expected ratings to the C-Max Hybrid, though once it went back and re-tested the car (and others) it found that the coast down test was giving its cars a higher rating than it ought to. Ultimately the Blue Oval was forced to correct the MPG ratings of six vehicles, which hurt sales of the C-Max particularly hard.

To their credit both Ford and Hyundai/Kia have refunded customers to the tune of millions of dollars for the lowered MPG rating, and the EPA has since taken to auditing the fuel economy of production vehicles a lot more frequently. Of course if automakers just followed Mitsubishi’s example and applied the kind of MPG ratings you can actually expect in real world driving, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.

 

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.