Ford Opens Investigation Into Fuel Economy Testing Procedure, Hires Outside Help
Ford Motor Company has reason to believe a problem may exist in how the company calculates vehicle fuel economy and emissions.
The automaker has hired an outside firm to help get to the bottom of the issue, which was raised by employees, and has already notified the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board of the probe, Ford claims. It insists this isn’t about sneaky defeat devices; rather, road load is the issue here.
“In September, a handful of employees raised a concern through our Speak Up employee reporting channel regarding the analytical modeling that is part of our U.S. fuel economy and emissions compliance process,” said Kim Pittel, Ford’s group vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, in a statement.
“We have hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation into the vehicle road load specifications used in our testing and applications to certify emissions and fuel economy.”
Also involved in the investigation are independent technical experts and an independent lab. The outside firm handling the probe is Sidley Austin, Reuters reports. At this point, it isn’t known whether the fuel economy rating of any Ford vehicle stands to change, though it’s happened in the past. Also of concern are the emissions certifications of unspecified models.
“We plan to work with regulators and the independent lab to complete a technical review. As part of our review, we have identified potential concerns with how we calculate road load,” Pittel said. “The first vehicle we are evaluating is the 2019 Ranger; we are assessing additional vehicles as well.”
Automakers calculate road load (essentially, all the forces working against the engine’s power) through engineering models and physical testing, with the data given to regulators ahead of dynamometer testing. It varies from vehicle to vehicle, with differences in weight, frontal area, and coefficient of drag translating into a different road load curve for each model. Road load modelling identifies at what speed a certain vehicle is most efficient.
In a Thursday regulatory filing, Ford stated, “We cannot predict the outcome, and cannot provide assurance that it will not have a material adverse effect on us.”
Given the newness of the probe, the EPA didn’t have much to say. In a statement reported by Reuters, the environmental regulator said Ford’s investigation is “too incomplete for EPA to reach any conclusions,” adding, “We take the potential issues seriously and are following up with the company to fully understand the circumstances behind this disclosure.”
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