By on November 3, 2012

Hyundai and Kia being called on the carpet for inflated fuel economy claims is a great story for a slow Friday; everybody likes to see a rising star get taken down a notch, and the two Koreans have been the Cinderella story of the auto industry for the last couple of years.

Small wonder then, that in 2010, TTAC reported on some suspect fuel economy figures over in Detroit, similar to what happened with Hyundai/Kia. And nothing was ever done about it.

TTAC examined the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Equinox back in February, 2010. A survey of various road tests (including the vaunted Consumer Reports test) revealed that the Equinox was far from achieving its stated 32 mpg highway rating. The results ranged from 18-25 mpg, far from the advertised figures. That’s anywhere from 22-43 percent lower than Chevrolet’s claims.

In the case of the Fusion Hybrid, the claimed 39 mpg didn’t materialize; most outlets returned 34 mpg. In both cases, the results returned were similar to their competitors, but not close to their stated ratings.

In light of all that, it’s worth asking, why Hyundai/Kia and why now? And why not GM and Ford in 2010? The official line is that the EPA decided to re-test those vehicles as part of their annual campaign to randomly test 15 percent of cars for fuel economy accuracy. The process supposedly validates the self-reporting process for automakers, though they made a point of stating the magnitude of the Hyundai snafu.

The EPA’s auditing of mileage claims by automakers rarely uncovers misrepresentations. It has happened only twice since 2000, the EPA says.

But this is the “first time where a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer have deviated so significantly,” the agency said.

Compared to the discrepancies at Hyundai (1-3 mpg on average), the missing mpgs for the Equinox are a big deal. The Equinox is a volume product for GM, one of the best-selling crossovers in the segment, and one of its selling points is its superior fuel economy. Why wasn’t anything done about it? I’ll turn it over to Paul Niedermeyer, author of the Equinox piece, to explain

Conspiracy theories are not exactly our preferred fall-back explanation, but it really is rather curious that these two particular cars (Equinox, Fusion Hybrid) are both being heavily advertised (despite the Fusion hybrid’s limited availability) as symbols of American auto manufacturer’s ability to deliver class-leading fuel efficient vehicles. And they carry that EPA stamp of approval. Yet neither of them delivers; in fact the Equinox actually underperforms its peers.

Keep in mind that the EPA tests are not actually performed by the EPA, but by the manufacturers themselves, with a small percentage of cars potentially retested by the EPA. Have they retested the Equinox or the Fusion Hybrid? And if they fell short, would we actually ever hear about it?

 

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68 Comments on “TTAC Rewind: Fuel Economy Skulduggery Is Nothing New...”


  • avatar

    its a good carrrrrrr i thinkkk that it wiillll be good for middle class peoples

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    I think this is the initial shot of an EPA campaign waged against foreign auto makers on behalf of the UAW and Detroit. I would bet some Detroit automaker prodded the EPA into this action. This reminds me of the fake recall attacks launched on Toyota. The EPA will sanction every foreign auto maker on Detroit’s behalf, while looking the other way on Detroit’s numbers. I bet the EPA is reviewing every Toyota and Honda for mpg.

    Bottom line is a Toyota or Honda purchase will be better for the consumer since every possible recall will be forced, and you will be able to trust the mpg on the sticker. Looks like this rule will extend to Kia and Hyundai. Unless the defect is deadly, NHTSA will give Detroit a free pass while the owners get stuck with the repair bill and you may be exposed to bogus EPA numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Two different government agencies: NHSTA and the EPA. One tracks manufacturing and safety defects. Engineers, serious investigations, finding fault, correcting problems. The other determines MPG by using highly specious tests.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      “fake recall attacks launched on Toyota.”

      I’m sure all the people whose Corollas, Camrys, Yarises, Scions, Tundras, RAV4s, and Highlanders burned to the ground because Toyota can’t design a functioning window switch will be glad to know that it was a “fake” recall.

      Fun fact: Ford, an actual victim of a fake, politically motivated safety attack, still recalled less than half the vehicles implicated in this latest Toyota quality failure.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        @ PintoFan: “all those people whose [toyotas] burned to the ground”…

        And just how many Toyotas do you think burned to the ground due to the wrong grease on these switches? Do you have some numbers, because from what I’d read there were approximately 200 instances of smoke reported total. No accidents, no deaths, no injuries. The release says that it is a precautionary measure to prevent fire – I don’t know that there have actually been any fires at all. Let alone scores of them burning to the ground.

        No automaker is perfect. Remember the Ford Explorer? (14M vehicles recalled, twice.) Or how about Chevy forgetting to put brake pads in new cars last year? Recall standards are incredibly tight for safety’s sake, so we shouldn’t be penalizing automakers who step up and fix a situation BEFORE it is causing death and dismemberment.

    • 0 avatar
      b787

      You’re not exactly unbiased either. The last Toyota recall certainly wasn’t fake, but the vehicles burned down only because some incompetent owners/mechanics sprayed flammable lubricants on circuit boards – hardly Toyota’s fault.

  • avatar
    mike978

    In my comment on the H/K article I specifically said other cars like the Fusion hydrid and Equinox also had overly optimistic fuel figures. However H/K systematically cheated the system *(sorry procedural error like they had with their horsepower figures). Whereas I would think for GM and Ford these were isolated cases – any evidence that both GM and Ford are gaming the system on all cars.

    For note the Kia Soul went down 6mpg – that is a pretty big drop too.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/qotd-time-for-an-end-to-manufacturer-measured-mpg-numbers/#comment-1961459

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I have a 2012 Soul 2.0 6A…

      I don’t believe that drop one second. As of 8700 miles it’s averaged every tank to a tune of 31MPG.

      Could it be that H/K was doing testing under the “old” EPA test procedure before they updated in whatever year that was? Who knows.

  • avatar
    MDBT

    It’s amusing to think that a blog post will get the same results as a class action law suit. File a suit and see what happens, until then you’re comparing apples to some very different oranges and your outcry serves as no more than a reminder of the tone of this site.

  • avatar
    shelvis

    Here we go. TTAC Classic.
    Hyundai/Kia get caught and TTAC still strangely wants to go back to the GM Deathwatch glory days.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Or, here we go, the B&B are raking the Asians over coals for making good on their mistakes. Don’t they know other companies usually sweep this stuff under the rug?

      Actually, I would be interested in how these things really do happen. Where in the process does someone decide to cheat? Why? Who? Or do they choose a process that cheats for them?

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I doubt that they “cheat.” I think it more likely they “build to the test.”

        Your mileage may vary, a lot, unless you “drive to the test.”

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        I highly doubt systematic and widespread cheating. H/K most likely “build to the test” like many manufacturers do. Hell… it’s written in the dynocharts for their naturally aspirated models for all to see. That big, ludicrous dip in power at very specific throttle openings and very specific engine speeds that most modern cars have nowadays to pass the EPA test regimen.

        Instead, it’s likely that H/K genuinely goofed. (recall… the “40 mpg” Elantra CAN do 40 mpg… just not as easily as you’d expect given the 40 mpg EPA rating). Just like Honda goofed with the Civic Hybrid (which, remember, only got downgraded AFTER the battery protection reflash). And they’re going to pay a hefty price. Those rebates may come out to just $1k-$2k per customer, but the loss of face to new customers is going to be hard to correct.

        And thanks to the reach of media, this has international repercussions.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        The rebates are unlikely to be $1K to 2K. From what I have read someone doing 15000 miles a year would get around $88 (per 1 mpg). Multiple that by 3 years (if they owned it that long) and H/K will add a 15% to make up for the inconvenience. This comes to way less than $1K.

        http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20121102/OEM11/121109960/hyundai-kia-to-pay-owners-for-faulty-fuel-economy-claims

        I recall Edmunds had tables of their long term tests cars compared on fuel economy and H/K models typically were the worst compared to EPA. With Honda, Toyota and Mazda the most accurate (closest to the EPA) and the domestics somewhere in the middle.

        The Equinox is a large volume model but still a small minority of total GM sales in NA. They are not consistently wrong, unlike H/K which has downgraded every model.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Pump the tire pressures and drive conservatively on the highway and you can exceed epa hwy numbers by close to 20%. That’s what I do on my 2004 GTO.

    Did I ever tell how I see 40% increase in my Saab 9-5 over EPA highway? :)

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “Did I ever tell how I see 40% increase in my Saab 9-5 over EPA highway? :)”

      Yes you most certainly did. :/

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      I also regularly exceed the mileage numbers with my automobiles. I have to assume it is very driver dependent. Of course, there is always the “lies, damn lies, and statistics” argument. However, I had to laugh out loud at the comment on the RF days of deathwatch. He was a very colorful character, not afraid to argue his viewpoint. In retrospect he was correct, as I grew up in the time of “what’s good for General Motors is good for America”, and believed that the sheer mass of the corporation and the cash cow GMAC would never allow it to go under.It takes real talent and hubris to drive a behemoth like GM into bankruptcy. They truly killed the Golden Goose. And destroyed years of family equity in the process. Robert, I publicly apologize for the vitriol I spouted your way as you pursued Bob Lutz, et al.

  • avatar
    Hank

    And yet my father-in-law’s Equinox gets him 30 mpg hwy without breaking a sweat. There are just so many variables. Driver, climate, terrain, traffic, gas/ethanol mix, etc, etc. If a claim is 30 and you’re getting 25, it’s more than likely the mix of variables more than the EPA that’s at fault. But then people don’t get to gripe about the gubment…

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Maybe your father-in-law relies on his GM trip computer. Road & Track recently economy tested a Cruze Eco. The trip computer reported 38.1 mpg. Reality was 35.7 mpg. The Honda in the same test’s computer reported only 32.5 mpg while reality was 36.1 mpg. While the GM computer was more accurate, it erred in a way that creates an illusion of a car that approaches its 42 mpg EPA highway number, while the Honda erred low to create the impression of a car that only achieves its 33 mpg EPA highway number. What it really illustrates is that a car optimized for the EPA test won’t perform better in the real world than one that isn’t. The Fit is a product that predates the latest CAFE farce, so it is geared for the real world. That’s where it works best too, instead of in a lab turning a dyno to an irrelevant driving regiment on gas you can’t buy and measured by calculations from a bad physics model.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        The higher the octane the better for most modern turbo cars. Though lessor octane can be run like CA pisswater 91, octane up to 94 available in the US is better. It’ll allow more timing and boost for given air mass which will yield more power and better fuel economy. It may take a tank or so for th ecu to adjust to higher octane and the driver’s driving style. Some Cruze owners are busting into the 50 mpg range. Which what GM said it is true about the diesel Cruze getting 50 mpg then it may see 60’s just the European’s small diesels see 80 mpg. Bye-bye hybrids in the US and the politics that protect them.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    I hate to crap on the TTAC self-love-fest, but the reason “nothing was ever done about it” is because Ford and GM *didn’t falsify the mpg test ratings they submitted to the EPA.* Hyundai *did.* I can’t believe this still needs to be pointed out. If we want to talk about cars being set up to do well on the test at the expense of real world fuel economy, then that’s a different discussion entirely.

    Oh, and as an anecdote to counter yours, Derek, I regularly drove a 2009 Escape Hybrid at my last job, and easily averaged 38 mpg (vs. the ratings of 34 city, 31 hwy.) Someone else in the office had to use it for a month, and the readout on the cluster came back showing 27 mpg. The loose screw behind the wheel makes all the difference in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      We don’t actually know that, do we? (whether Ford and GM falsified their test ratings). That’s not to imply that I actually think they did, but as it’s well known, the EPA only tests 15% of the cars. And the Hyundai retest came as the result of a suit.

      But I agree with you that I hardly expected an EPA retest of those two cars just because I pointed out that that they consistently underperformed in a number of magazine tests. It caught my attention at the time, and that’s why I wrote it up. No actual conspiracy was implied.

    • 0 avatar
      d524zoom-zoom

      ^+1 the idiot behind the wheel has to count for something!!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        In all my years of driving I have never been able to attain the mpg figures achieved by the manufacturer’s or the EPA’s testing, regardless of brand.

        Aside from my personal driving style, there are numerous other factors that ultimately determine the overall mpg you get, and it doesn’t matter what the sticker says.

        I may get 100mpg coming down the mountain, but maybe I only get 6mpg going up that same mountain. Does that mean that my overall mpg is 53mpg if that is my daily grind?

        I’m lucky to average between 10mpg and 20mpg in any of my vehicles although they are supposed to get much better gas mileage than that.

        The whole mpg debate is bogus.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I get the EPA figures for my Sienna but not my Legacy. At least the 2009 onwards figures are more realistic than before then. Even if there is still considerable room for improvement. At least we have sources like Fuelly to give real world data on hundreds of cars,

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        And highdesertcat drives “the most efficient full line vehicle manufacturer”. Sounds the driver is the obstacle to efficiency.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Can’t we just agree that all automakers are untrustworthy?

  • avatar
    BrianL

    This is comparing Apples and Oranges. When the EPA does testing, I am sure that they are testing with their own methodology. If the car doesn’t get that in the real world, then the test is bad. You mention how the difference in real world economy for the doesn’t match up to EPA estimates, but then compare that to revised EPA numbers for the Hyundai/Kia cars.

    Go to fuelly or to the EPA site and see what people are getting in the Elantra. Most are getting about 30 MPG. 30 MPG overall for a car that is supposed to be 29 in the city (original estimates). So, now, this 1-3 MPG is much much more.

    Now if the Equinox and Fusion Hybrid get the numbers when going through the test, it means that the test is bad. The difference here is Hyundai/Kia weren’t even performing the test correctly and reporting higher numbers.

    TTAC is playing softball in this case. Arguably, Hyundai/Kia committed fraud. The response so far has been to show how Hyundai/Kia did in a popular mechanics test and a JB test. But, failing to show how motor trend and a few other publications got far worse numbers.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    IMO these tests inherently make cars equipped with automatic transmissions in particular appear to achieve better mileage than the typical customer will achieve in actual driving , and that manual trans equipped vehicles generally come closer to achieving their EPA ratings , particularly on the highway . Or so Consumer Reports used to say .

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    Fuel economy skulldugery may not be new but indemnifiying the customer with a gas card certainly is fair.

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    Fuel economy skullduggery may not be new but indemnifying the customer with a gas card certainly is fair.

  • avatar
    NewsLynne

    Look at some of the old ads for the Ford Escort and Honda Civics. This isn’t a terribly modern problem, agreed. That’s why you have to be loaded for bear – and BS – when you go buy a car.

  • avatar
    Joss

    We all know mileage is over rated by ALL manufacturers, some by a greater degree. They’ve all been guilty of it. Just another attempt to ding brand image from a competitor.

    Still EPA needs a line to be drawn somewhere…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “why Hyundai/Kia and why now?”

    Here’s why: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/automobiles/hyundai-is-sued-over-mileage.html

    Nobody sued GM or Ford. Somebody did sue Hyundai or Kia.

    The EPA doesn’t devote many resources to investigating mileage claims. For the most part, they take the manufacturers at their word (and to be fair, the manufacturers don’t lie very often.)

    Ironically, the same people who gripe about these things are probably the same people who keep demanding “tort reform”, i.e. a system in which people who aren’t rich can’t afford to hire a lawyer. But it’s the absence of this much-revered tort reform that makes the lawsuits possible, which serves as a way to reduce the cost of enforcement, since some of the policing is effectively outsourced to consumers and their lawyers.

    Incidentally, I would also be suspicious of the Ford and GM claims for the same reason that I had my doubts about Hyundai — because they all claimed results that were well above average for their respective classes. Since no one has yet to invent a magic fuel injector, I would presume that similar types of vehicles of similar weight and output ratings would get similar fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Nice rant on Tort Reform, but misleading. What you are describing is simply bad tort reform. Anytime you try to change the rules, short sighted people will try to screw it up. Putting all reformers in the same barrel and declaring them all the same amount of rotten is even worse than short sighted, it’s foolishness.

      If tort reform were easy, we would all be for it and it would be done. OTOH, who believes the present system is optimal?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I may have used the words “Conspiracy theories are not exactly our preferred fall-back explanation” to intro that paragraph, but not to imply that there actually was a conspiracy between the EPA, GM and Ford. I tend to disdain conspiracy theories.

    I simply kept running into road tests of these two cars (Equinox, Fusion Hybrid) where the discrepancy was greater and more consistent than typical. That’s what caught my attention at the time.

    I’m a bit confused by your words: “small wonder then, that in 2010, TTAC reported on some suspect fuel economy figures over in Detroit, similar to what happened with Hyundai/Kia. And nothing was ever done about it.” That suggests that TTAC has a hell of a lot more influence than it does. Especially from a post that just compared various magazines’ mileage results. I’d hardly expect that to launch an EPA investigation. As you said yourself, they test 15% of the cars for compliance. If the Fusion hybrid and Equinox were ever tested by the EPA will remain a mystery. I certainly wouldn’t be shocked either way: that they got tested and complied, or didn’t get tested. There’s just so much discrepancy, as we all know. Except when it becomes endemic.

    Frankly, H-K’s 40mpg-braggadocio has been catching my attention for some time now too. That it was a company that so blatantly flaunted its mileage superiority in (and within) the industry is quite embarrassing for them.

    As fuel economy becomes more important, I’d suggest the EPA just double the number of cars it tests for compliance. At 30%, the risk of getting caught starts to look like much worse odds to be worth gambling on.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    I was able to average better than 40 mpg over ten fill-ups in my 2012 Veloster over the summer, but only because I understood that the engine has no grunt and I took into account the physics of wind resistance. If you want to cruise at 80 mph in a Veloster you can, but you’d be more comfortable and will likely get better mileage in a V6 sedan if that’s how you drive. I like having the option of getting 40 mpg during the inevitable price spikes, but hypermiling gets old quick and right now the savings aren’t worth it.

  • avatar

    Conversely: Ever notice how the EPA consistently rates Diesels LOWER than their real-world fuel economy performance?

    I still have the window sticker from my then-new 2002 VW TDI and the EPA says it would achieve 35/44 MPG. My lifetime average with the car has been 47.3 MPG with many tanks in the 50+ range.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Call me crazy, but why on earth would the EPA randomly choose vehicles to retest? If they can afford to test 15% of new cars, wouldn’t it make a whole lot more sense to test those vehicles whose numbers are in question? Or, in the case of the Equinox, where the laws of physics deem the EPA numbers impossible. (Since it is a larger, heavier, and less aerodynamic vehicle than the Malibu. and with the same drivetrain, they’re quoted at the same mpg estimates.)

    Or perhaps some split? 5% of vehicles tested at random, and 10% tested based on numbers that look suspicious. In this case, purely random sampling looks like a waste of money, and doesn’t help the EPA’s mission any.

  • avatar
    redav

    Or, it could be exactly as quoted: The Koreans misstated 80% of all their vehicles over the last few years, not a single model/trim here & there.

    Should Ford & GM be fined if they violated their EPA reports? Yes. Should Hyundai/Kia’s punishment be more severe? IMO, yes.

  • avatar
    NN

    I’m generally a fan of GM products, however, I agree with Paul and TTAC on this. I own a 2010 Malibu LTZ with the same 2.4L 4-cyl used in the Equinox cited here. I also have a 2004 Mountaineer, which the EPA rates at 15-18. I regularly get 19-20 on highway trips in the Mountaineer. The Malibu is rated at 22/33, and yet I’ve never seen 33. At the time, 33 was tied for the best that was available in the midsize market, and the dealer pressed that benefit hard on us. The best I’ve ever seen is 29 over the course of the same highway trip that I beat EPA estimates on in the Mountaineer. So I hope GM gets the same scrutiny over their overstatements, especially with the Equinox, which seems to be the most egregious.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I have a 2009 Pontiac G6 with 2.4L/6 speed autobox that is supposed to get the 33 MPG also, and I too, have rarely gotten above 30 MPG in freeway driving. 28-29 is more the norm. OTOH, I rarely go below 80 MPH on long trips, as the cost in gasoline vs. the cost in time is worth the cost of the gasoline to me.

      I’m sure if I slowed down to posted freeway speeds, my fuel mileage would be better. I still think that 29 MPG with in a car loaded with luggage and the a/c running (in summer) isn’t really all that bad, however…

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Fuel economy numbers are merely calculated from emission test results, not from specific fuel economy testing. They are not necessarily representative of what a particular driver will get, but are the best way available to compare one car to another despite the myths propagated in the blogosphere.

    Hyundai-Kia calculated the numbers wrong and had to correct their error. Whether it was intentional is unknown. There is no evidence whatsoever that GM or Ford fudged the calculations.

  • avatar
    samthedog

    Fuel economy fantasy land….as they say, your milege will vary….here in canuckistan, transport canada quotes in both liters per 100km, or miles per IMPERIAL gallon….funny as hell, but it works to the delalers benefit as they can quote some hoo-ha about “this here dodge journey gets 56 mpg” or some sort of non truth, and for all i know, they quote dimensions and capacities in cubits and pecks or bushels…but the jist is….NOBODY cares, gas is 5 bucks or so per usgal and everyone drives 15 mpg canyoneros….better to rant about insurance gouging or cell bill hell, or something fun….at least there is usually a positive corellation with fuel economy, ie:the lower it is, usually the more joy….hmmm, wait, i drive a tdi….i have a hoot and get 45 mpg or better….oh never mind

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    “A GM product? Successful? That can’t be!”
    Shrieked Schmitt, his moustache twirling excitedly.
    “Blast it! Burn it! Tear it down!”
    He ordered Kreindler, with an angry frown.
    So Derek dredged up ancient history
    And quickly he found this odd “mystery”
    And proclaimed, “See? We got it right!”
    And then he spoiled for a fight.
    But even so, none ever came
    And he twitched and fidgeted, afraid of blame.
    But don’t worry Derek, it’s not your fault
    In America, TTAC is as successful as Renault.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    While I’m pleased to see automakers getting called out on this (it is better for the consumer, after all), I still think we need to drop this “miles per gallon” business. Cars are getting so efficient that people are choosing a 40mpg car over a 38mpg car when the real cost difference is practically nothing. If it were gallons/100miles, which has a direct relationship of how much it costs to operate a vehicle, I think it would be a more honest representation of the fuel economy differences between X and Y models. 1 or 2 mpg difference up around 40mpg isn’t really much of an actual cost-to-operate difference.

    I honestly think that the evolution of hybrids is going to require a change to the EPA test. Right now, the tests barely break out of the 60mph range and the test is not very long (11 and 13 miles, IIRC). The latest Ford hybrids can go up to 60mph in all electric mode. If you deliver a vehicle to the test with a full battery, a considerable percentage of that test will be done in electric mode based on the relatively low speed and short distance. At some point, the gas engine will have to recharge that battery and mileage will plummet because you are now using gas where you were going off energy that was stored previously, but if a lot of that doesn’t happen until after the 11 or 13 miles are completed, that fuel usage isn’t going to show up on the rating. A hybrid that can only run up to 40mph (the Prius family, for example), is going to be forced to turn the engine on for more of that test and thus will probably have more realistic mileage estimates because it isn’t frontloading as much of the test with energy stored previously.

    The only reason I bring this up is because the Ford Cmax outweighs the Prius v by around 400lbs, has more power, has a bigger frontal area (thus worse aero drag), and a worse drag coefficient. Basically, from a physics perspective, it has a lot to overcome to best the Prius v in mileage. Yet, it manages 47/47/47 in the EPA test while the Prius v only manages 44/42/40 in the EPA test. Looking at fuelly, there is a nice bell curve around 42mpg on the Prius v… basically right on target. The, admittedly few, C max numbers on fuelly are mostly at or under 40mpg with a flyer up at 50… generally missing the 47mpg target. The biggest difference in how the two vehicles operate is the top speed at which each vehicle runs on electric only (~40mph for the Prius, ~60mph for the Cmax). The Prius has older nickel metal batteries versus the LiIon of the Cmax, but that is likely more of a packaging advantage than efficiency*. A little forum research shows at least one person who nailed the EPA rating in their Prius but can’t come close in their C-max that replaced the Prius. To me, this says that the test being very short as far as mileage causes a lot of the inaccuracies we see in hybrid ratings. In general, I think that the city test is just flat out incorrect for almost all hybrids for the reasons listed above. A hybrid drivetrain means that you just take less of a beating while driving in some stop and go because you can recover a decent portion of energy normally lost to brakes, but you still have mechanical energy converting to electric energy and back to mechanical energy. It is better than nothing, but I think that the city ratings are generally a bit overstated in hybrids.

    *I studied mechanical and aerospace engineering; someone who has more experience in batteries can feel free to weigh in here.

  • avatar
    mr_min

    I don’t claim to be an expert on the EPA test cycle, but I do understand the Eu fuel economy cycle.
    I have a question for the best & brightness, since so far no-one seems to mention it.
    – Isn’t the EPA test (like the Eu test) simply a way to compare vehicles? ie Car A vs Car B?
    For the Eu cycle, I don’t drive anything like to cycle, so the FE numbers are fairly meaningless.
    I would have thought that EPA would be similar, ie they are a Guideline, not a statement of fact..

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @mr_min – The EPA test cycle is called the FTP- Federal Test Procedure. It was derived from a drive in the LA area many years ago and is used to measure exhaust emissions. Every carmaker must certify compliance with emissions regulations which requires an expensive and tightly controlled process for each powertrain combination to assure long term compliance. Fuel economy numbers are calculated from tailpipe emissions results and contorted with a number of adjustment factors to create the numbers displayed on the FE label.
      You are right. The FTP is a reasonable way to compare one vehicle to another under identical, controlled conditions,but not directly translatable into real world economy. The highest speeds on the FTP are less than 60 mph.

      • 0 avatar
        mr_min

        Thanks Doctor olds, it is very similar to the Eu method then.
        I think a few B&B seem to be missing the point of the test.

        Its a comparison test.

        The EPA conducting the test is not going to make any difference. If anything its in the EPA interest to not do the test, because then they can fine companies for not following the test cycle. If the EPA do the test, then Car companies and consumers can sue the EPA for wrongly conducted tests.

        As a second point if (big if) the test is flawed then the EPA should change the test method. Which I think is highly unlikely, because its a comparison test.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The FTP doesn’t survive because it is a comparison test. It survives because it is written into Corporate Average Fleet Economy legislation. As doctor olds correctly stated, it was devised to test exhaust emissions, not fuel economy. The use of a driving regiment recorded on a drive through Los Angeles made sense, as the air quality of LA was horrible and car emissions were a major culprit. The amount of fuel used isn’t even part of the test. All results are based on what comes out of the exhaust pipe. Fuel consumed is estimated based on the amount of carbon in the exhaust. The EPA knows the method is flawed, and currently reduces their published figures by about 12% for the city test and 30% for the highway test. Hybrid results are reduced even more. The correction factor is there to estimate the variables of wind reduction, rolling resistance, weight, and other variables that the dyno test fails to accurately predict. The EPA used to just publish the dyno results, and consumers were angry when the 40 mpg subcompacts of 30 years ago rarely hit 30 mpg on the highway.

        The sad thing is that the results are only good for comparing how little carbon a car exhausts on a chassis dyno when being driven to a rigid regiment that even includes prescribed shift points for manual transmissions. Cars can be built to game the test, the result being reduced real world economy relative to the same car geared for actual use.

        Fortunately, there are other resources for determining what sort of mileage owners actually achieve. While they each have their flaws, they’re all more indicative than the EPA’s numbers. If one really prioritizes fuel economy when making a purchase, magazine comparison tests can be as useful as owner surveys. While the numbers may be skewed by track testing, idling on a cold day while photographers are choreographing group shots, and high speed hoonery, if the group average is 19 mpg while one car achieved 23 mpg, that is the one that will likely deliver the best mileage in any real world use.

  • avatar
    shaker

    What seems to have started this Equinox MPG “boondoggle” is the fact that Chevy touts EPA 22/32 MPG for the FRONT WHEEL DRIVE model with the 2.4. (AWD version EPA: 20/29)

    Most consumers purchase the AWD model (even with the 2.4), which got 14/30 in CR’s mileage loop; it’s not unreasonable to assume that the FWD version could have matched the EPA HWY numbers.

    The real problem is the “city” number; a relatively heavy (for its class) vehicle like the ‘Nox will really suffer in hilly Terrain (heh), or in stop-and-go driving, and since most drivers don’t measure their mileage under ideal highway driving conditions, they’re never going to see anything near the “32” MPG that was burned into their brains by the advertising – that’s the nature of EPA HWY-based fuel economy based advertising – it will almost always disappoint.

    That said, Check this out:
    CR Equinox 2.4 AWD mileage: 14 city/30 hwy (EPA 20/29)
    The test of brand-new 1.6 EcoBoost Ford Escape SE AWD: 15 city/31 hwy (EPA 22/30)

    So, both vehicles beat the EPA est HWY, yet both fail badly in the CR “city” loop.

    The Escape weighs 3675 lbs as tested, the Equinox 3945 lbs.
    Escape 0-60 = 9.9 sec, Equinox 0-60 = 10.7 sec.
    Seems about right, considering the weight difference.

    So, if the Equinox is such a “pig”, I can’t wait to see what new Escape owners (who have been “Eco-Boasted”) will think of a 1.6l car that gets (essentially) the same “real-world” mileage as the (admittedly thirsty) Equinox.

    Edit: Both were 6-Speed autos; NOTE: CR did not test the “base engine” 2.5L Escape (EPA 22/31, FWD only), just the 1.6T SE and the 2.0T Titanium (which got 15/29 in their testing)

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      If I bought a 1.6L tubo powered Escape I would be very unhappy with the 15 city mpg. I have a 3800 pound 97 Crown Vic with the 4.6L V8 that delivers 15 mpg around town and 25 mpg on the highway (70 mph over rolling hills). Doesn’t sound like much progress in 15 years.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    I know all the anti government people will flame this but it seems to me that the EPA should be responsible for testing the mileage of all cars. The manufacturers could pay a fee, the EPA randomly buys a car off the lot and the EPA tests them all to the same standards. The way it works now is like the fox watching the hen house.
    I know the NHSTA did that with crash standards. They tested them here in Buffalo at a company called CALSPAN…The manufacturers didn’t issue there own test results to the public

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Amen. Self-reporting is a joke. Just like ‘voluntary compliance’.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Amen. Self-reporting is a joke. Just like ‘voluntary compliance\'”

        You’re right, it is a joke. The whole system of mandatory EPA fuel consumption reportion should be done away with as it gives no value to consumers.

        The information is available publicly at no added cost.

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        The car review websites do a lousy job of testing gas mileage. The ‘glossies’ are an untrustworthy and easily corruptible source to begin with. The cars are not tested under identical conditions. Nobody ever bothers to check the accuracy of the odometers or the gas pumps neither. So there is definitely value in having an impartial test regime. The cost to consumer would be negligible.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “I know all the anti government people will flame this but it seems to me that the EPA should be responsible for testing the mileage of all cars. The manufacturers could pay a fee…”

      Yep, you lost me on the last sentence. As if consumers really NEED this added “protection” taking even more non-value added cost to vehicles.

      This is a complete non-issue. With hundreds of independent organizations already conducting their own variations of fuel economy testing, any consumer could easily get an idea of what fuel economy to expect from a potential vehicle before purchasing it at no cost to them. No. Added. Cost.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Yet on Truedelta- the Chevy Equinox owners are reporting numbers which are fairly close to the EPA numbers:
    http://www.truedelta.com/fuel_economy.php?stage=pt&bd=Chevrolet&mc=62
    2012 Equinox 2.4 FWD: 26.1mpg
    2011 Equinox 2.4 FWD: 25.5mpg
    2010 Equinox 2.4 FWD: 25.4mpg

    I do notice something rather suspicious though:
    2010 Equinox 2.4 AWD: 28.4mpg

    This is spectacular gas mileage for an AWD CUV if true. And the numbners look to be very consistent:
    29.6mpg
    27.1mpg
    28.3mpg
    28.6mpg
    28.2mpg

    All 5 owners are reporting very similar numbers. I hate to be spinning a conspiracy here but I have to say- these numbers look suspicious. Michael Karesh needs to give us some answers.


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