By on May 20, 2008

6a00d8341c5bd653ef00e54f31348f8834-800wi.jpgConcerned that demand for "green cars" could be fueling marketing gimmickry more than real improvements, Auto Express UK ran a test of seven supposedly low-carbon cars (full results not available online) with interesting results. The Times Online reports the test revealed that several vehicles perform much worse in the real world than their manufacturers claim (and repeat ad nauseum in marketing material). One such offender is the VW Polo BlueMotion, which was launched as "Britain's cleanest car" with a claimed C02 output of under 100g/km. In the Auto Express, the Polo failed to achieve its lofty benchmark, and received low scores. Honda's Civic Hybrid has a claimed C02 emission of 109g/km, but in testing it delivered 171g/km, enough to bump it into a higher carbon tax category. The Lexus GS450h claims an impressive 35.8 mpg, but delivered only 26.7 mpg in Auto Express' tests. Ford's ECOnetic 1.6 diesel Focus returned about 45 mpg, a good 20 mpg off the 65.6 mpg claimed by the manufacturer, although carbon output is decreased compared to standard Ford diesels. In short, carbon emissions and fuel efficiency are almost universally overestimated and hyped in marketing efforts. While EPA ratings are often better than anyone receives on the road, we don't base vehicle taxes on carbon output. With tax incentives in place for less-polluting cars, Britain's government will probably want better verification of actual C02 output levels going forward.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

24 Comments on “Green Car Claims Fail Real World Tests...”


  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    This is the result of testing standards used in the UK and Europe. They’re much more optimistic than real world results. Our revised EPA standards are now much more realistic than the Euro test.

    It’s because of these Euro tests that we keep hearing about 63mpg Honda Accord diesels, etc. They need to revise them.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    kinda like how manufactures over estimate horsepower. its just a different number.

  • avatar
    dean

    The trend of greenwashing everything has grown ridiculous. Past ridiculous, actually. It seems almost every ad these days tries to portray products as green.

    I think maybe Norway was on to something by banning car companies from advertising vehicles as green.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    I think the standards folks may have watched Clarkson pull 800 miles out of an Audi A8 TDI (a twin turbo, IIRC) a few years back and decided the line needed to be moved. It generally is possible to acheive (or surpass) the standards – I’m regularly at or above the stated mileage in my ’01 BMW, and I like to put my foot down! The problem is that most people simply don’t drive per how the tests are laid out; so we either retrain the drivers or rework the tests…

    BTW, I have a mixed city/rural/highway route that I drive every couple of weeks and can vary my mileage by roughly 35% simply through driving style. The biggest factors (in keeping mileage in check) seems to be coasting wherever possible and easing off the throttle up hills…

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Edward
    CO2 is not a pollutant. It is a necessary and naturally occuring gas in our environment, of which a small percentage is generated by automobiles.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The history of manufacturers exaggerating the merits of their products is a long, colorful and somewhat predictable story. It should come as no surprise then that in an age where the environment is in the focus of the media’s attention that car makers want to make consumers believe that their products are somehow good for the environment. Looking at some European car ads one could be forgiven for getting the impression that some of these “green cars” actually absorb carbon and clean the air.
    I’m sure that once the environmental story fades that they’ll go back to suggesting that their product will make you more attractive to the opposite sex.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    What a shock(!) The VW Bluemotion Polo didn’t achieve its figures. I have yet to read ONE (count them, ONE) report of someone achieving the stated figures, let alone beat them!

    That’s not to say ALL diesels are bad. BMW do some fantastic diesels. They also come with a BMW pricetag which cancels out any benefit!

    I’m a bit surprised at the Honda hybrid. I thought they were quite good?

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    OK, I’ve skimmed all the links. Can anybody just tell me which car had the actual lowest emissions of the seven vehicles tested?

    I understand it is fun to poke at the bad advertising/marketing practices and poor testing standards but can’t someone just say X car had the lowest emissions of the seven tested?

  • avatar
    mdf

    I agree with Brendon from Canada: even after a few weeks of experimentation, I’ve found that style has a significant effect. But it is far too easy to “wander off” into the old ways. And becoming a “hypermiler” is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Can the car-computer help? Sensors for hill-climbing, GPS for terrain, RFID for upcoming stop lights/signs?

    The ultimate might be a computer program that can drive a car. I suspect a great amount of speed is related more to driver stress than actual need.

    Edit to add: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driverless_car

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    You can keep you driverless car, thanks. My favorite thing about the Toyota Prius is that it begs you to beat the mileage from your last tank the way a an old RWD sedan begs to be hooned. I found it genuinely entertaining for the handful of times I’ve driven one.

    Thanks for the heads-up on mileage estimates. Makes those carbon taxes look pretty silly, if the government is overestimating efficiency.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    While the numbers are optimistic, they are almost certainly optimistic for the gas guzzlers as well. The actually number is irrelevant, cars with lower numbers are likely more efficient and that is what is being rewarded/penalized.

    If the tests are so broken that they are not giving the lowest numbers to the most efficient cars, then the tests need to be fixed.

    This is not an indictment of testing, nor of the idea of a carbon tax.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I consistently get fuel economy from our family fleet which is consistent with the old EPA tests, let alone this year’s tougher ones.

    When I bought my 2006 TSX the window sticker said 22 city, 31 highway. The EPA’s new revised numbers are 20 and 28 for the same car. In my local driving I rarely drop below 22 mpg and generally average 25 or 26 in a mix of highway and errand duties. On a recent long trip I averaged 76 MPH and 31.5 MPG, and crossed mountain ranges twice doing it. When I cruise at 65 MPH the fuel economy runs 35-36 MPG.

    Maybe some vehicles or some drivers have trouble hitting the EPA numbers, but that has never been my experience.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    The Mini Diesel (with efficient Dynamics – light hybrid) did the best in the test. Getting 57MPG (Imperial). It was a bit faster than most of the eco boxes, hitting 60 in around 10 seconds.

    Bring this over and I might be interested.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    While EPA ratings are often better than anyone receives on the road, we don’t base vehicle taxes on carbon output.

    Not entirely correct. There is a gas guzzler tax for cars with low fuel economy, and manufacturers not meeting CAFE requirements must pay additional taxes.

    EPA numbers are great for vehicle comparison and are accurate for most drivers. They’re also easily surpassed with conservative driving.

  • avatar

    This seems to be more of an indictment of the EUDC 99/100 EEC than of these particular models.

  • avatar

    ‘Britain’s government will probably want better verification of actual C02 output levels going forward.’
    That would be right – the government didn’t care a jot when the manufacturers claims were just deceiving us, but now they want to charge us more tax for the same car, they start to care.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I have had good luck with my cars beating the EPA numbers. I had an 02 Acura RSX-s rated at 20-28 that I easily got 27-30 out of, my 06 Honda Element rated at 20-24 regularly got 23-24 overall, and now my 08 Ford Fusion rated at 20-28 is getting me 29.8 overall in mixed driving. I beat the RSX and still got those numbers, but had to go easy on the Element and Fusion to get the higher numbers.

    I find that the average MPG indicator keeps me trying for higher fuel economy, I am now shifting into neutral and coasting on the downhills – even on the highway. I wish the car had a 6 speed stick and stop/start

  • avatar
    veefiddy

    Wait-gasp-the marketers aren’t telling the truth?

  • avatar
    ghillie

    # Edward Niedermeyer :
    May 20th, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    You can keep you driverless car, thanks. My favorite thing about the Toyota Prius is that it begs you to beat the mileage from your last tank the way a an old RWD sedan begs to be hooned. I found it genuinely entertaining for the handful of times I’ve driven one.

    Try a Honda Insight – it’s a hoot. Porsche 356 of the 21st century. Only better.

    # Bytor :
    May 20th, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    The Mini Diesel (with efficient Dynamics – light hybrid) did the best in the test. Getting 57MPG (Imperial). It was a bit faster than most of the eco boxes, hitting 60 in around 10 seconds.

    Bring this over and I might be interested.

    My long term average in my Insight is 85MPG (imperial). It also hits 60 in less than 11 seconds (although I wouldn’t average 85MPG if I did it more often than rarely!)

    Only two seats though and you can’t buy them new anymore.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Same so called tests have been made by German magazines too with similar results, a while ago you had a small piece under news here in TTAC.

    Driving style has a huge impact on the mpg numbers – journalists just haven’t taken that factor into account. But this kind of news is a big seller, that is why magazines produce them.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    My long term average in my Insight is 85MPG (imperial).

    I totally want an Insight. They may be a bit ugly, but they are a purpose built mileage machines, lightweight and tossable and had an available 5-speed.

    I drove an MX-5 for a while, I could handle the space limitations as well.

    I hope one of Hondas new hybrids come close to the Insight and offers decent performance great economy and a manual transmission. Not holding my breath though.

    http://www.hondanews.com/categories/1097/releases/4510

  • avatar
    mdf

    Edward Niedermeyer: You can keep you[r] driverless car, thanks

    Good grief, why? I like driving … but only when you can actually move. But like any rational person, I thoroughly detest the stop-n-go city commute, and would be very happy to fob that pathetic job onto a robot. Consider this: if a computer could drive any car in a way that is (say) 10% more fuel efficient, then the potential exists to retrofit large swaths of the current fleet in a time-span that is probably much shorter than junking them and building more fuel efficient cars (with the autonomous driving ability factory installed).

    GPS + video camera(s) + computer. The hardware is inexpensive, the computer program only needs to be written once. Sounds like good bang for the buck.

  • avatar
    gsp

    I get more than the old EPA numbers in all my cars. But I coast a lot and like to think of saving gas as a game while I am driving. I still accelerate hard at least a few times a day though.

    Most important is the coasting. Most people feel they should be on the gas or on the brake all the time.

    Also, even use of the gas while driving is important. I have a friend that burns through transmissions and gas because he constantly pumps the gas as he is driving. Many people do this for some reason, like a nervous habit.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    GSP: I had a girlfriend that did that too for no obvious reason. I was then I knew I did not want her for a wife b/c she would ruin ever supercar I had parked in my imaginary supercar garage… A couple months later I was a free man again.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dantes_inferno: FCA motto: Dodge testing. RAM into production.
  • Schurkey: A few years back, I treated myself to a Challenger 5.7 Hemi rental car for several days when vacationing on...
  • SCE to AUX: I was shocked to see an SSR in the wild the other day. The Hummer EV will do better, but I wouldn’t...
  • SCE to AUX: Yeah, I’ll bet the engineers didn’t think of that. Have you seen the armor plate under the...
  • CaddyDaddy: Ya, but when Dalton got to Missouri and the Roadhouse, the Riv was the one to go with for the Dirty Work.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber