Ford Opens Investigation Into Fuel Economy Testing Procedure, Hires Outside Help

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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.”

[Image: Ford]

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  • James Charles James Charles on Feb 22, 2019

    I see couple of conflicts here; 1. Consumer and government regulatory information is required, and 2. A standard must apply to all competing products. Just looking at the above issues a government body must be used to offer the least conflict in providing information and data. Easy solution.

  • TheBrandler TheBrandler on Feb 22, 2019

    If they dinoed actual vehicles, they could cut half the BS out of their calculations. Put the dino in a wind tunnel which would allow you to measure the actual force on the on the vehicle at different speeds would allow you to cut out about 80% of the rest of the BS in their calculations. Taking the vehicles up to highway speeds on the dino in the amount of time it takes to traverse the average on-ramp and then keeping at highway speed to measure economy - and doing similar simulations in a wind tunnel for city driving would eliminate the rest of the BS since at that point you are literally measuring things. I'll bet you dollars to donuts, that methodology I spelled out would yield a MPG a fare bit closer to what people actually see in real world, and also bring about the demise of the turbos which are currently used to cheat the system.

    • See 1 previous
    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Feb 24, 2019

      They do dyno actual vehicles and guess what part of the test includes sticking one of those huge fans in front of the vehicle. However with the vehicle strapped to a dyno how hard you blow on it has absolutely zero effect. The test is based on a real world drive that replicates the exact speeds, rate of acceleration/deceleration, time at stop ect from the two routes that the EPA picked out in 1975. The key is that the load the dyno applies is based on calculated and verified by coast down testing to determine the total drag on a vehicle.

  • Chris P Bacon It would be really nice if car sites like TTAC helped people find way to avoid these prices. It seems like stories like these just say "suck it up and pay the markup". No. In many cases, you don't have to. I just ordered a Wrangler 4xe and got Chrysler Affiliates price. That 1% under invoice. I know this is the price I got because I sat at the computer in the dealer's showroom and build the Jeep. i got Chrysler Affiliate pricing through my employer. Your employer doesn't offer it? Join treadlightly.org. For $100 membership, guess what? You get Chrysler Affiliate pricing! Want a Ford, but think you can't get X-Plan? Think again! Join EAA.org. X-Plan is included with their membership. A dealer in my area is offering Costco members a $1500 incentive. I'm guessing that has something to do with Costco's car buying service, so there must be some value to be found in that program.Will all dealers honor these discount plans? No. Then that's not the dealer you want to work with anyway. Find another place to shop. It would be nice if TTAC (or any car site) did a little leg work to show readers how to actually save on a car purchase.
  • KOKing I car-sat an A32 while its owner was out of the country, and the then whiz-bang VQ motor was great, but the rest of it wasn't any better than a XV10 or XV20. Definitely the start of its downward slide, unfortunately.
  • Norman Stansfield Why are leaf springs still a thing on this truck?
  • Syke The expected opening comments. Have had mine for two years now, the car has done exactly what I want out of it, and a little better. I'm quite happy with the car, haven't had to adjust my driving style or needs in the slightest, and . . . . oh, did a mention that I don't give a damn what today's price at the pump is?Probably going to go for a second one in the coming year, the wife's happy enough with mine that she's ready and willing to trade in the Nissan Kicks. Eventually, the not often used van will end up getting traded on a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, basically ensuring that we don't use gas for anything except the occasional long trip.And the motorcycles.
  • Bobbysirhan I've never found the Allegro appealing before, but a few years of EV rollouts make it seem downright desirable.
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