EPA looks to audit more mpg claims
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A senior EPA engineer says he expects the government to more closely monitor automakers’ fuel economy ratings after Hyundai and Kia overstated mileage claims on some nameplates.
Speaking at a University of Michigan conference today about the government’s 2025 fuel economy standards, Jeff Alson said the agency has always performed “routine audits” of the tests, which automakers conduct themselves.
But higher gasoline prices have highlighted discrepancies between the ratings and the fuel economy that drivers achieve.
“We’ll probably do more of that in the future than we did in the past,” Alson said.
After an EPA audit prompted by complaints from consumers and other automakers, Hyundai and Kia had to reduce the mpg ratings on eight Hyundai nameplates and five Kia nameplates in the 2011-13 model years and have agreed to compensate owners.
Ford Motor Co. faces a lawsuit from a California man because his C-Max hybrid isn’t getting 47 mpg as advertised.
Alson said the agency will continue to evaluate the best way to communicate fuel-economy ratings to consumers.
Hybrids and electric vehicles can perform differently depending on weather conditions and how they are driven. This complicates developing ratings for window stickers.
“Everybody wants a label that tells you exactly what you’re going to get, but obviously that’s not possible,” Alson said. “A good general rule of thumb is that real-world fuel economy is about 20 percent lower than the lab numbers.”
Alson said he expects the Obama administration’s proposed 2025 fuel economy standards to remain unchanged after a midterm review unless evidence at the time shows the industry is making more or less progress than expected.
The review, requested by some automakers and scheduled to be completed by April 2018, is designed to evaluate automakers’ progress before finalizing the targets for the 2022-25 model years.
The White House seeks to raise fuel economy targets to 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model year.
Alson said the EPA expects real-world average fuel economy in 2025 to be about 40 mpg, up from about 20 mpg in 2010 and a projected 27 mpg in 2016.
Automakers, most of whom supported the proposed mpg standards for the 2025 model year, don’t want the standards to become tougher, while environmentalists worry that regulators will use the review as an opportunity to relax the requirements.
Where automakers will stand several years from now is difficult to project because the EPA can’t foresee future technology innovations or changes in oil and fuel prices.
Alson provided a few more EPA forecasts:
Lightweight materials will reduce vehicle mass by 8 percent on average by 2025 because of corporate average fuel economy standards.
About 90 percent of 2025 models will have downsized, turbocharged powertrains and eight-speed transmissions.
Electric vehicles will account for just 2 percent of the market in the 2025 model year.
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