By on February 22, 2019

2019 Ford Ranger, Image: Ford

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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40 Comments on “Ford Opens Investigation Into Fuel Economy Testing Procedure, Hires Outside Help...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Ruh roh. There could be some serious fallout from this one. Why don’t automakers share information on road load modelling, and standardize it? It sounds like tests are gamed, to put vehicles in the best light regarding fuel economy and emissions. This throws every manufacturer’s testing into question.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Maybe we will finally get some accurate numbers for the EgoBust engines.

    Pretty crazy when even Ford employees are sick and tired of the dishonesty.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Nice trolling you got there.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      “EgoBust” I like that. Gonna steal it for future use!

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      Ford is pathetic

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      EBFlex,
      Maybe Ford had a genuine survey or Ford management realised they are pushing the boundaries. But Ford is not much different than any other business in untruths. You seem negative towards Ford.

      The Economist engines appear okay, but assuming a Ford turbo engine is inferior to competition displays a limited ability in making impartial judgement.

      Any turbo engine will suck fuel at higher throttle settings. My experience with EcoBoost engines is mixed. If you drive like an old cart you can achieve good FE. But drive and keeping with the traffic and they are lacklustre in FE. But, again, this is not uncommon with turbo engines.

      • 0 avatar
        James Charles

        Auto-correct sucks.

      • 0 avatar
        James2

        From one James to another: ignore EBFlex and akear and before them P71Silvy or whatever his handle was. They are TTAC’s resident Ford haters. Ford could build a fantastic car/truck/SUV and these trolls will find a way to troll. They never bring constructive criticism to the party; they just hate. They will almost inevitably bring up (aka trash) Ford even when the subject matter has nothing to do with Ford. It”s almost as though Henry had his goons beat up their great-grandfathers or Edsel ran over their dog with his Continental or something.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “EBFlex,
        Maybe Ford had a genuine survey or Ford management realised they are pushing the boundaries. But Ford is not much different than any other business in untruths.”

        Or not:

        ““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,” “

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The best possible measurement of mpg is to actually drive it on the road, not simulation. Take it out to Daytona or one of the other speedways and drive it for 60-100 miles at different speeds to get highway mileage. Drive it in a town during rush hour to get city mileage. Use an averaged ratio of typical city to highway mileage to determine ‘combined’ economy. FAR more effective than trying to simulate it on a dyno.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      Agree, that real world testing means more, but the dyno allows for a theoretically more fair comparison between different models and brands.

      That said, the Ranger road test in this month’s Car & Driver showed an actual mileage of 16 mpg.

      Yikes!!!

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        So, not any better than my 2013 4.0l Tacoma.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        Yikes!!! indeed. That’s probably the ‘combined’ mileage, my Mustang GT gets that around town.

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          @carguy67

          I absolutely love the performance of the 4.0l (1GR-FE). It’s got great low-end torque and makes a nice snarl when you get on it (and it could blow the doors off of my old ’95 F-150’s 5.0 Windsor). But, fuel economy isn’t its thing. Some people on forums like ToyotaNation and TacomaWorld claim 18-19 around town, and maybe it is possible if you’re not stuck with E10 gasoline, like we are.

          Toyota replaced it for ’16 with the 2GR-FKS 3.5l (Atkinson cycle with both port and direct “D4S” injection), just to pick up one mpg in the EPA highway cycle. But the 3.5l is wheezy and gutless – I’ve driven one, and wouldn’t buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        The Ranger represents the largest half assed effort from Ford in recent memory. Not as bad as the 2008 Taurus but very close. By most honest accounts it’s a very lackluster truck. It’s very old bones are evident and interior space is surprisingly tight. Cheap materials are prevalent throughout and it just isn’t really any better than the competition.

        The bright spot is the powetrain but even then, 16 MPG is atrocious.

        • 0 avatar
          N8iveVA

          “Cheap materials are prevalent throughout and it just isn’t really any better than the competition.

          The bright spot is the powetrain but even then, 16 MPG is atrocious.”

          Thats’s not what I’ve been reading, especially from Alex on Autos. But everyone here knows of your anti-Ford bias. Alex actually got higher than rated highway mileage.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        This is anecdotal, but most here will remember I recently sold a 4-cylinder ’97 Ranger and purchased a brand-new V6 Chevy Colorado. In exactly the same kind of driving I was doing in the Ranger, I’m getting almost exactly the same gas mileage out of the Colorado, despite the bigger engine and overall bigger and heavier body. My ‘town’ driving runs in the 19-20mpg range and my highway driving (4-10 miles per trip) runs about 24-25mpg. I haven’t tried a highway road trip but the truck is rated to 26-27, just like the old Ranger was. So for tripling the power in a truck about 5/3s as heavy, getting the same fuel mileage is remarkable to me.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          @Vulpine, The fuel economy of modern truck’s of all sizes is amazing. The only problem with your Colorado’s mileage is that is exactly what my F150 Crew cab gets. Undoubtedly your truck takes a simplier approach to get there, but still.

          A friend of mine got a Ranger though and he is right in the ballpark with our trucks. I’m not sure how anyone is managing 16. My old 90s models with the 4.0 would do that.

          I can’t see getting a Ranger because I really like my F 150, but I am watching it because I really want to convince my wife she needs a Bronco.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Art, I’d first like to point out that the Colorado is much, MUCH bigger as a truck than I wanted. Even as a 4×4 I have to step up into it farther than I like, though I do understand the popularity of the jacked-up suspension; it is not good for fuel economy, however. I sat DOWN into my old Ranger, by comparison.

            The Colorado’s exact same drivetrain, every gear and including the transfer case, would probably realize 20% better economy in a 30% smaller version, as in lower roofline, lower ride height and lower weight, even if it retained its current length and width (but I’d prefer about 15% less width, too.) That is a factor nobody, not even the OEMs, seem to understand. Unloading the engine means less fuel needed to perform the exact same tasks. Don’t shrink the truck and put a smaller engine into it; that keeps the power to weight/drag ratio exactly where it is, meaning the economy isn’t going to change.

            I understand that most people like and want bigger trucks but it has become quite obvious that SOME people want a much smaller truck than the current line of “small trucks” we now know as mid-sized. Ford has now acknowledged this, as has Hyundai, though Hyundai has taken forever to go beyond the concept stage and still isn’t announcing any public release date. Ford has. The point here is that if they make the same mistakes they made 25 years ago and longer, the engine those trucks need, such as that 2.3 EcoBoost (maybe with lower overall ‘boost’) could realize superior fuel economy over any current open-bed vehicle on the market. Not only that but they could address a market segment that hasn’t seen an open bed model in almost 40 years… a true COMPACT truck.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Keep in mind, C&D fuel economy numbers are consistently low, as they flog just about everything (and of course, turbos amplify the gap between worst case and normal fuel economy). For what it’s worth, the pair of ’19’s on Fuelly are currently at 19mpg, which still isn’t great, but at least not a misrepresentative extreme.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          A 2.3 liter turbo gas engine in a 4,210 lb pickup is always experiencing a worst case condition.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Personally, I agree with you, Todd. That’s why I didn’t wait for the Ranger once I found that out.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            Primo snark, but you surely could have actually brought something substantive to the table? As has been established, the Tacoma’s running a torqueless V6 (and I don’t think the Colorado is substantially better). So while the Ranger might only get fractionally better fuel economy, it should at least have better low-end power than its two biggest competitors. And yes, it does come at the expense of trusting an unknown powertrain.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Maymar: The Ranger’s torque is only marginally greater than the Colorado’s–maybe 20 to 30 pounds-feet or so. The Ranger’s horsepower is about 20-30 horses below the Colorado’s, so overall they are very similar in performance.

            However, to achieve those numbers, that tiny four-cylinder engine is boosted to an extreme. Under load, even if both were towing just below their maximums at roughly 7000#, the four is working far harder than the six and stands a risk of blowing that turbo over time. If that ever happens, suddenly that four is only outputting about 100-110 horses while the normally-aspirated Colorado V6 is still putting out those 300+ horses. Believe me, 100 horses in the Ranger is very likely to tear that poor engine apart trying to drag a load heavier than the truck pulling it AND even disconnecting the trailer would only just be sufficient to get the truck itself to the nearest shop for repair as the truck is 30% heavier than its predecessor that used a 2.3 N/A under the hood.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      All you’d have to do is put a climate controlled dome over Daytona so you could control for temperature, humidity, and wind conditions, and do the same for the city testing, also controlling the traffic so all the vehicles are tested under identical conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      Negative, Vulpine. Too many variables will enter into the equation.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Perhaps, James, but they’re clearly missing the variables that count if the real readings are that far off of the expected readings. Wind drag is one of them and the apparently calculated frontal area is obviously not as small as they wanted. I expected far better from that truck. My Colorado does better with a V6 at similar horsepower and torque ratings as the new Ranger; their fuel economy should be very similar. This tells me somebody made a gross error in calculations and it is now biting them in the foot.

        • 0 avatar
          285exp

          The numbers that matter to the automakers are the EPA ratings, not the “real world” numbers. They optimize the vehicle to perform to the test, not to how the hypothetical real world user actually drives, and since people don’t all drive the same and all road and traffic conditions aren’t the same, any real world ratings that are devised won’t be much better than the ones being used now.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            XP, the most recent change in EPA measuring methods have proven to be far more accurate to real world numbers than they used to be. Yet the new Ranger’s real-world numbers are far below their supposed EPA rating. Even Ford recognizes this. They are the ones wanting to find out why their numbers are so far off. Under actual EPA testing, the vehicle IS driven on a real-world circuit. A dynamometer cannot match real-world circumstances because the dyno cannot calculate in the wind resistance of the vehicle under realistic conditions, only under ideal ones. So, if the calculated numbers don’t meet the real-world numbers, somebody goofed. Badly.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I guess I live in a bubble, but the only vehicle in my fleet that is ever under epa mileage is the Fiesta ST. That is a driver issue though. I’ve never had a car from any make that was significantly off one way or another.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Vulpine, the problem with measuring fuel economy on the road or test tracks is that test conditions change outdoors. Hard to get repeatable results. I could imagine building an indoor environmentally controlled test track, but it would be very expensive. I would be happy if the current test methods simply used something realistic like 75 mph for “highway speed”.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Another Ford problem. Usually just one per month and I thought that the truck transmission speed sensor (downshifting to 1st while on the road) was it for February.

  • avatar
    James Charles

    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.

  • avatar
    theBrandler

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      GregLocock

      I don’t think that helps. The load the dyno applies is based on a coastdown test, basically run the car up to high speed, put it in neutral, record the speed vs time. You know the mass, so it’s easy to work out the power vs speed graph, and this includes aero drag. Insisting on building a windtunnel around the chassis dyno adds millions of dollars to the cost while actually making things more difficult.

      In my experience of designing/running chassis dynos (say since 1984) the errors are quite significant, for example the rolling resistance of the tires is excessive because you reverse bend the contact patch on the rollers. So you have to subtract that out of the demand curve for the dyno.

      One of the biggest inefficiencies that people forget about is the diff, the losses in which have a large friction (ie load independent) but also large speed and load dependent contributions. The coastdown test doesn’t help all that much with those.

      So for all these reasons (and more no doubt) a dyno test is not pure, and you have to correct for all the things that are wrong. Road tests are hopelessly ‘noisy’, there’s too many variables that are uncontrolled.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      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.


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