Who's Afraid Of CAFE? Not Hyundai

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
whos afraid of cafe not hyundai

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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8 of 25 comments
  • John Horner John Horner on Jan 25, 2011

    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.


    • See 1 previous
    • Dhanson865 Dhanson865 on Jan 25, 2011

      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.

  • R H R H on Jan 25, 2011

    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.

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    • R H R H on Jan 26, 2011

      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.

  • Xidex i haven't even turned the dial to AM since the 90's I think at that time it was only because there is one station i liked was on the AM dial (it is no longer around) Someone had to point to the station otherwise i wouldn't have even scanned the AM dial. I still think the AM dial should be left on radios though, If no one listened to it then there wouldn't be any stations would there.
  • Kwik_Shift I have five AM stations preset, each different from one another in terms of content. Some politics, some day to day, some do it yourselfing or help. Focus is more on local news and events. FM is just about pushing crap music and djs pushing the MSM message for their corporate overlords. FM is about making radio sound exactly the same all over North America. I like ONE FM station that plays different varieties of country music and has an entertaining dj. Overall, to each their own.
  • Kat Laneaux What's the benefits of this as opposed to the Ford or Nissan. Will the mileage be better than the 19 city, 24 hwy? Will it cost less than the average of $60,000? Will it be a hybrid?
  • Johnster Minor quibble. The down-sized full-sized 1980-only Continental (which was available with Town Car and Town Coupe trims) gave up its name in 1981 and became the Town Car. The name "Town Coupe" was never used after the 1980 model year. The 1981 Lincoln Town Car was available with a 2-door body style, but the 2-door Lincoln Town Car was discontinued and not offered for the 1982 model year and never returned to the Lincoln lineup.
  • Zipper69 Some discreet dwebadging and this will pass for a $95k Lucid Air...