That Car Gets Worse Mileage than You Thought:

The Environmental Protection Agency has revised the formula for calculating official fuel mileage ratings to try and make them more representative of actual performance, the New York Times reports. The changes are intended to account for how car owners actually use their vehicles, as this effects fuel economy. The result is lower estimated miles-per-gallon for 2008 vehicles.

he system was last adjusted in 1984, when the E.P.A. cut the city values by 10 percent and the highway values by 22 percent. This one cuts the estimate of highway mileage another 8 percent, on average, and city mileage up to another 25 percent beyond the 1984 cut. Generally, the new formula narrows the gap between small cars and bigger vehicles, with small-car fuel economy estimates falling by more than the estimates for sport utility vehicles and other larger vehicles.

Hybrid vehicles will take some of the biggest hits, according to the agency, because the new standards include use of heaters and air-conditioners. Most gas-electric hybrids shut down their engines at low speeds, and run on electric batteries, but if the vehicle occupants have turned on the air-conditioner or heater, the engine may not shut down.

Despite what the EPA's best efforts, it remains the case that "actual mileage may vary."

Any indication if the new numbers will be applied without correction to the CAFE standards thus de-facto raising them? Sorry, didn't read the NYT article. I refuse to give them my info. They might lose it like UCLA did.
12.12.2006 9:14pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Then there's the question of why we buy a car - I mean, other than for transportation. Are we going for maximum fuel economy or lowest pollution? Both would, of course, be nice...

The hybrid vehicles supposedly get very good fuel mileage (although my old 1984 VW Diesel Rabbit beat 50MPG regularly) and good emissions performance. Of course, both factors - particularly fuel consumption - depend on one's driving habits. I knew other VW Diesel Rabbit drivers who got only 25-30 MPG, but they drove like every inch was a quarter-mile drag strip. A small engine does not necessarily mean better mileage if one has to run open-throttle to get the desired performance.

More to the point, there was an article a couple of years back(in either National Review or The Weekly Standard) which looked at the emmisions performance of the Ford Focus PZEV version (I am currently driving the 2003 wagon variant of this and getting about 30 MPG) which had nearly zero harmful emissions combined with acceptable (I wistfully remember the 50 MPG diesel) mileage as compared to the admittedly much better fuel mileage of the Toyota Prius hybrid which didn't fare anywhere near as well in the emissions department. The article made the comment that the premium-priced Prius would never pay back to it's owner the cost differential between it and the Focus over a realistic vehicle lifetime.

Now, the premium cost of the Prius may be in part because of the extra complexity of the hybrid system and in part because Toyota - no fools, they - was aiming it at the upscale market segment of those who are willing to pay extra to make a social statement: "I'm doing my part to conserve our natural resources," even though it makes no overall economic sense.

The complexity of the hybrid concept may make it difficult for such cars to ever compete on up-front cost with simpler concepts such as improved gasoline and diesel engines driving the vehicle directly through a mechanical transmission. In theory, the electric vehicle is the simplest, but the battery problem is a long way from practical economic and engineering solution - whether improved storage batteries or fuel cells - so the electric car is currently and for the reasonably near future a specialty vehicle, not something that the average person would want to drive.
12.12.2006 10:19pm
Jack S. (mail) (www):
Good thing reality won't actually affect reality.

a senior policy analyst, said the new stickers would move the government estimates closer to reality.
At the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group, officials also praised the new standard and said it would cut fuel economy estimates by 8 to 10 percent on average. The alliance had fought to make sure that the formula was used only on the sticker, and not on the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard, the one that manufacturers must meet or pay a penalty.

(emphasis added)
12.12.2006 10:22pm
Erick R (mail):
To RainerK:

You should just create a separate e-mail account that you use to sign up to Web sites that require an address. And you can make up info for the demographic questions.

More than a few sites think I'm a 105-year-old Nigerian woman who makes more than $500K as an insurance exec.

Sorry for the off-topic post.
12.13.2006 8:10am
Preferred Customer:

Any indication if the new numbers will be applied without correction to the CAFE standards thus de-facto raising them? Sorry, didn't read the NYT article. I refuse to give them my info. They might lose it like UCLA did.

CAFE has my nomination as the goofiest government policy of the late 20th century, and given my views on government policy and goofiness, that's saying something.

CAFE seeks to change consumer behavior (i.e., the fuel economy of the vehicle fleet) by imposing penalties on producers for building certain types of products (i.e., those products that consumers want to buy). Focusing solely on the supply-side hides the cost of CAFE compliance from the consumer, and thus does little or nothing to change consumer preferences.

If our goal as a nation is to increase fleet economy, and people are (in our judgment) insufficiently motivated to acheive that goal, the easiest, simplest, and most effective thing to do is to raise gasoline taxes. Doing so would force consumers to internalize the costs of inefficient vehicles, and would rapidly change consumer preferences. No complicated government formulae for measuring fleet economy, with the attendant loopholes and curlicues, would be required. The vehicle mix on American roads would rapidly change, hybrids and diesels (now that low-sulfur fuel is available) would become economically viable and more popular, etc. Oh, and the additional tax revenue could be used to build additional roads, HOV or HOT lanes, and mass transit.

As proof of how well and quickly this would work, look at what happened to full-size SUV sales earlier this year when gas prices briefly nudged 3.00/gal.

So, why do we still have a complex federal scheme that does poorly what a simple federal scheme could do very well? Because CAFE allows elected officials to hide from voter accountability. You don't see the scaborous hand of government reaching into your pocket when CAFE raises costs. A higher gas tax would be obvious and impossible to hide, and would force people (both the elected and the electors) to actually put a value on their concerns about energy efficiency, global warming, and energy independence. God knows no one will actually do that.

Hell, a courageous politician could have said earlier this year when gas hit $3 "this is a blessing in disguise, and we will pass a tax that keeps the retail price at $3 a gallon going forward in order to acheive all of the great things that higher fuel economy will supposedly bring." Instead, we got proposals to give Americans $100 to pay higher gas costs, an SUV subsidy if there ever was one.

12.13.2006 9:11am
Jiminy (mail):
Isn't that what the Europeans do - have a gigantic gas tax, and then everyone buys the little efficient cars...

And to RainerK - there is a firefox extension called Bugmenot, designed solely for the purpose of avoiding those login sites.
Whenever you encounter one of those free login sites that wants your email, try the username bugmenot and password bugmenot. The odds are very good that it's in place. I know for a fact that it works on the normal NYT site.
12.13.2006 10:20am
lucia (mail) (www):
I agree with fsadfhgas who observes there is no perfect way to estimate the milage an individual car will get. That said, if we want the EPA estimates to be useful to consumers, they need to reflect the types of driving people do. We'd probably need at least all three of the following a) stop and go/ gridlock traffic b) city /suburban traffic that moves and c) highway.

We could get even more complicated, but the testing would cost a heck of a lot, and the values would be more confusing.
12.13.2006 3:31pm