By on January 24, 2011

Remember how the government bailout team forgot to make sure its “Irrevocable Ecological Commitment” from Fiat was measured in “adjusted” Miles Per Gallon, using the EPA test cycle that provides your window sticker number? Well, the same “unadjusted” MPG number Sergio Marchionne used to his advantage is used to calculate the CAFE ratings that have the industry in such an tizzy. Well, the official lobbying parts of the industry, anyway [see also, here]. Hyundai has been saying for some time that it is targeting a 50 MPG fleet average by 2025, although CEO John Krafcik said as recently as August that he didn’t know how the automaker would reach that goal.  Now, however, it looks like he’s found a way to bring 50 MPG within reach: use CAFE’s “unadjusted” standard. Just like Sergio. Follow along as Hyundai shows that 50 MPG isn’t as far off as many seem to believe.

Here you can see at the serious discrepancy between the EPA’s “adjusted” or “window sticker” fuel economy numbers and CAFE’s “unadjusted” numbers as demonstrated by the 2011 Sonata. In this example, a currently-available, American-built midsized sedan comes within 3.4 MPG of the proposed 2016 CAFE standard for passenger cars (37.8 MPG combined)… despite having a 26 MPG combined EPA sticker.

Using the discrepancy demonstrated in the previous slide, Hyundai points out that a 50 MPG combined unadjusted (“50 MPG CAFE”) vehicle will actually get only 37 MPG on its combined “window sticker” EPA number. Which starts to sound quite attainable when you consider the next slide:

For CAFE purposes, Hyundai’s “midsized” (using EPA interior volume ratings, rather than CAFE “footprint” just to confuse things) non-hybrid Elantra gets 44.4 MPG combined. That means 50 MPG is well within a generation of development, according to the Korean automaker. Though ambitious, an 11 percent reduction in fuel consumption in a four-year development cycle is no moon-shot… and it would put the Elantra at 50 MPG in time for the 37.8 MPG passenger car standard proposed for 2016.

Of course, Hyundai doesn’t have the future fuel economy regulations in a chokehold just yet. There are, after all, the Equus, Genesis, Azera, Sonata and “light trucks” to worry about. Besides, it looks like the EPA (or, at least its its pals at CARB) have 62 MPG in mind for 2025, a target which ups the ante even farther than the 50 MPG Hyundai had anticipated.

And, since we’re making sense of this for the benefit of consumers, we have to also point out that automakers are getting better at gaming even the “adjusted” EPA test to deliver a window sticker number that can be nearly impossible to replicate in the real world. If achieving the CAFE standard can be easy, EPA and the manufacturers need to make sure the “adjusted” numbers on window stickers are actually more relevant than “unadjusted” CAFE numbers. Or better yet, stop confusing the consumers, media and policymakers, and measure CAFE with a “real world” number that can be displayed on EPA window stickers with confidence.

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25 Comments on “Who’s Afraid Of CAFE? Not Hyundai...”


  • avatar
    forraymond

    SCRAP all this BULLSH*T.  The public will buy what they will buy.  Stop screwing with people.  Give honest estimates that are comparable and attainable.
     
    Stop lying.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    This reminds me of FIAT in Brazil many many year ago. Their 1.0L Uno engine back then would not pass emissions inspections at the power rating they wanted to sell it. So they programmed their ECU to identify the profile for the inspection – it was (and still is I think) a fixed curve the “driver” followed with the car on rollers – and so the engine was underpowered accordingly just during the inspection.

    Very clever – and probably sophisticated for the electronics of the time – but they got caught.

    • 0 avatar

      I remeber well. In fact, I had the car. Uno ELX. Electronic carburator (instead of fuel ingection – much like Fiat is doing today with Dualogic instead of full automatic – half measures -Sigh!!). Supposedly the car had 55hp, but unofficially it was probably around 70. For such a light car it was very fast. In those days, younger wilder I got the car to nail the velocimeter over the 180km/h mark on the gauge. Probably was doing 160km/h , but still (don’t worry, I don’t drive like that anymore…mostly). It ran circles around my sister Gol Bolinha.

      The first car I bought with my money. Oh, the memories!

  • avatar
    dwford

    The window sticker ratings are hit or miss. I can easily hit the 35 mpg highway rating with my Sonata, but haven’t come close with other Hyundais – Santa Fe and Tucson. In fact, the 2010 Santa Fe GLS AWD 4 cylinder was rated at 21/27, while the identical 2011 is rated at 20/25. I suspect all SUV’s ratings are being “gamed.”
    This piece shows how convoluted the whole process is. And you didn’t even get into credits for flex-fuel vehicles, or other alt-fuel vehicles!! This whole system is a mess. Overall, though, despite the contortions, cars are going to get more fuel efficient.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      I know for a fact that Ford games the system, too.  Call it real world experience on my part versus the sticker numbers on the Ford Escape.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      What the EPA calls a “highway” number is so far removed from actual highway driving to be accurate only by coincidence.  The original “highway” test runs at 48 mph.  The “high speed” test added for 2008 includes six accelerations from a dead stop (and 2 more from a near stop) in less than 10 minutes and still averages 48 mph.  Obviously this greatly understates the effects of wind resistance and overstates transmission and ECU tricks.

      Compare their 48 mph treadmill number to real world highway driving with little or no acceleration but 70+ mph wind drag and slippery cars will easily match if not exceed EPA numbers while drag dominated SUVs begin to fall short past 60 and fall off a cliff by 75.
       
      I would have thought a “highway” fuel economy number would mean putting it on a highway and seeing how much fuel it uses.  The EPA regimen reads like something designed by a savant engineer who had never seen an actual car.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      @aspade

      Perhaps you can help me wrap my head around this somewhat since you mentioned windspeed druing the tests. How do the EPA (technicians I suppose you’d call them) factor in wind resistance while on the dyno? The car itself isn’t moving and thus is not having to combat wind, unless this is something they can program into the rolling resistance of the dyno. I’ve read around online and went to fueleconomy.gov to learn something about it, but just came away confused.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      The treadmill is externally loaded to (attempt to) account for wind resistance calculated from frontal area and coefficient of drag.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Not that Hyundai is alone in this, but I’m not a huge fan of Hyndai’s designs, was not impressed with the deceptive and extremely aggressive sales strategies of our local dealership, and I don’t like the way the Canadian Warranty has been shortened relative to the U.S., so for me this is just another reason to stay away from that brand.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I suspect that there is a very good chance for a major change in CAFE policy in 2012, and a change in EPA policy as well.  Some of these CAFE standards may be rolled back.  I am not a fan of this approach of merely forcing the industry to deprive the consumer of vehicles they want to buy.  An increased gas tax would be more honest.
    The other problem is that other government regulations, namely the mandatory ethanol where I live, dramatically reduce our real world mileage. E15 would make it even worse.  Given that we have to buy CA emissions cars, is the ethanol making any difference other than in the pocketbooks of corn farmers?

    • 0 avatar
      dhanson865

      Ethanol indeed. I’m willing to bet CAFE testing and EPA sticker testing are done with 100% gas aka E0. Us poor saps buying E10, E15, E-toomuch can’t hit the MPG the testers get with 100% gasoline.
       
      I’m surprised the author/editor of this article didn’t chime in on this.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Everyone is still worried.  When only the smallest vehicle on the lot is going to make CAFE of 50 mpg, it isn’t mission accomplished.  But I must say this… saying that CAFE number differ from EPA numbers is not great revelation.  If an auto maker thinks so, it is pretty sad.
     
    The Ford Focus is likely to have 50 mpg CAFE.  The Cruze ECO get more than 50 CAFE.  Both Ford and GM are both worried because of all the trucks they sell.  With all the CUVs that are sold in the US, no one has this problem solved yet, not even remotely.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      The Cruz eco is rated 28/42/~33 combined with the stick which nobody buys.  The automatic is 26/37/~30-31 combined.
       
      Only a highway number for the Focus has been released – 40 – so it will come in around 32-33 combined similar to the Elantra.
       
      37 mpg they ain’t.
       

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    These nebulous efficiency ratings need to be brought up here on TTAC every time someone points to the Sonata’s stated mpg rating and wag their finger at the Accord, Camry, etc. for not having the same specifications per unit of engine displacement.

    As with horsepower ratings, it’s better to think in wider bands of comparison and not get caught up in a difference of 2 or 3 mpg in stated rating.

    But when you buy an audio receiver, make sure to get one with the highest watt rating, that means it sounds the best.
     

    • 0 avatar
      SkiD666

      Does anyone know the fuel blend used for testing?

      Maybe one of the reasons people can’t get EPA ratings are because they are losing 5 – 10% Fuel Economy because of Ethanol.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I believe it is straight gas.  No ethanol.  Another reason it is harder to achieve the sticker MPG.  But, the system is still gamed by the auto manufactures.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      @fleetofwheel

      “As with horsepower ratings…”

      I don’t know if this is precisely relevant to the discussion, but here goes. Do many of the manufacturers still game the HP ratings that they advertise? I was watching the Barrett-Jackson auctions last week and they consistantly made reference to the idea that GM would underrate their vehicles so that insurance premiums would be reduced. I believe the EPA takes a random sample to test, but otherwise takes the manufacturer at their word vis-a-vis ratings printed in brochures.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The unadjusted numbers are simply what is actually measured during the EPA prescribed test cycles. At first, these where the only numbers published and they became the basis for the CAFE rules. But, for a number of reasons, few people achieve numbers similar to the unadjusted numbers, so a method of down rating them such that the window stickers would more closely conform to what a majority of drivers would see was put into place long ago. It has been this way ever since. There is nothing nebulous about how this is done at all. The procedures are well documented and published.
    The EPA “highway cycle” actually is run at an average speed of around 48 mph and never exceeds 60 mph. Drive your vehicle that way and you too can get amazing fuel economy.
    http://www.dieselnet.com/standards/cycles/hwfet.html

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      Ed pretty well layed out how the various ratings and methods result in ambiguity to the consumer.
      Anyone can drive in a manner that maximizes their efficiency without even knowing what the stated mpg for their vehicle is. Or they could look up the formulas and methods you cited and monitor their results in accordance.

    • 0 avatar
      dhanson865

      The EPA “highway cycle” actually is run at an average speed of around 48 mph and never exceeds 60 mph. Drive your vehicle that way and you too can get amazing fuel economy.
      If you use 100% gasoline. Drive that way with E10 and you won’t get the same amazing fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I’m not sure why none of you guys can get EPA numbers. The 2 autos I own both achieve “80/20″ (highway/city) mixed equaling the EPA highway numbers…. The hardest # to hit is the city. Highway is super easy long as you don’t drive like you are in F1 or nascar.

    2005 STi: 2011 numbers (total miles/total galons, not some computer mumbo jumbo): 22.1mpg mixed. Rating is 16/22

    2000 plymouth neon: rating 22/28. Mixed: 28.2 (same mix as above).

    This is my commute which goes 35 miles each way…

    Why people can’t get those numbers? They have lead foot/feet. It surprises me that I still see people blowing by me at 80 in a 50 when gas in Chicago has hit $3.60′ish a gallon for regular.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I have a hard time hitting EPA numbers because I only have a 15 mile one way commute with 12 on the highway, but I tend to drive more in the city than anything. Also, by the time my car is warm enough to be operating most efficiently I am halfway to work. Living in MN winter weather, and E10, combine to make good mileage little more than a joke.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Try it with a 3.25 mile commute with no highway, mandatory Boston area E10 and cold New England winters.  At least I don’t use much fuel anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      You can beat the EPA numbers without trying because your cars were engineered in the pre gas panic, pre greenie era when nobody but campus hippies even talked about fuel economy.  So there was no reason to spend development money (and compromise the car) gaming a better treadmill score.
       
      Try that in anything released in the past year or two.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      Interesting comments guys….I suppose it probably helps that on the way home I can’t really GO faster than 40-50 in a 55 due to traffic. In the morning (4:45am) I can go at my choice…45-70 or so in 45-55. I usually just plod along in the right lane…Maybe the reason I get those numbers is due to the speeds I keep as well as the long distance.

      @tankin beans: One of the ways I try to check optimize mileage is by using a scangauge. Make sure you have “tps” showing….if I go from a TPS of 19-20 my fuel mileage can drop 1/3 while I accelerate very slowly. Once you get to the maximum speed for a particular TPS number, just hang out there unless you need to speed up/slow down to match green lights. Works for me at least….Typically my most fuel efficient speed is around 48-52 miles per hour.

      @slance66: You are much better off than me even if you get 20mpg in a car rated 30 since you’ll use so much less gas. It should be a non-issue…

      @aspade: The numbers I posted are the REVISED (as of 2-3 years ago…) epa numbers. The window sticker for the neon was originally 24/31 and was reduced to 22/28 under the new test.


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