Sunday, March 11, 2007

New EPA Ratings Hit Fuel Sippers Hardest

Scott Anderson at had and interesting article called New EPA Ratings Hit Fuel Sippers the Hardest. Here is what they said along with my comments.

Makers of the thriftiest cars and trucks on the road have less to brag about under new vehicle fuel-economy ratings the government says better reflect Americans’ real-world driving.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released new vehicle fuel-economy estimates that, for the first time, account for current interstate highway speeds, heavier use of air conditioning and other modern-day driving habits. In some ways it is hard for me to believe that it has taken this long for the EPA to get around to this? When did we change the speed limit from 55 MPH to 70 MPH/ That is pretty much the day when people started driving 80 MPH. When did you no longer need a radar detector? Remember back in the days of 55 MPH on the freeway, everyone had a radar detector. I think over that time period I bought 3 different types because the technology kept changing so fast. Another thing that doesn't make sense to me is when they say "air conditioning use". In most cars the auto setting or default setting is air conditioning on? I am constantly turning my A/C button off in my car. During the winter months the only time I need to run the A/C is when I have 3 people in the car with me and the windows get all fogged up. Otherwise you don't need it.

Under the EPA’s new ratings system, city mileage for all ’07 U.S. light vehicles, on average, falls 12%, while average highway estimates drop 8%. Combined fuel economy for the current fleet is about 10% lower. I am sure the automakers will whine about this and complain or already have but come on fellas the Corporate Average Fuel Economy hasn't changed since 1988. What was up with continuous improvement during this time frame, I know there wasn't any. I would love to drive a Ford Expedition that gets 30 MPG but it is not available. No one cared, fuel was cheap.

For some vehicles, particularly fuel-sipping power trains, the new ratings system can mean as much as a 30% reduction in city fuel economy and a 25% cut in highway driving averages.
“The most efficient vehicles on the market are gas-electric hybrids,” an EPA spokesman says. “They’re more affected downward as a percentage than other vehicles. Smaller engines pay a higher penalty for accessory usage, such as air conditioning.” This makes sense, when you consider the amount of power required to run an A/C compressor or to fire up 2 heated electric seats. That little 2.0L engine is going to pay a lot higher price than my 5.4L V8. It is all in the percentages. It is sort of like comparing a Clydesdale horse to a pony pulling a wagon. Put another 4 people on the wagon and the Clydesdale doesn't even know they are there. The pony on the other hand will just stop and eat grass.

Toyota Prius fuel economy dips 16% as result of new ratings.
For example, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid-electric vehicle saw its combined city/highway numbers fall from 55 mpg (4.2 L/100 km) to 46 mpg (5.1 L/100 km), or a 16% drop, according to the new measurements. The impact is far less on trucks and SUVs. The ’07 Chevrolet Tahoe, for instance, when equipped with a V-8 5.3L engine, slipped from a combined rating of 18 mpg (13 L/100 km) to 16 mpg (14.7 L/100). So the Prius goes from sort of amazing gas mileage to just great gas mileage. The Tahoe goes from crappy mileage to really crappy. The point here is that when you buy a car and the sticker says here is the mileage that you should get you really should get that mileage. Don't you think? It is sort of truth in advertising. I don't really care what mileage the car will get sitting on the test dyno in the back of a lab, I want to know what I will get when I a barrelling down the road at 80 MPH with the heated seats on, the A/C blarring (because I forgot to shut it off), my arc source head lamps and fog lights on, navigation system's LCD telling me which way to turn, charging my Treo and the Bose stero system thumping out the new Daughtry CD.

The new mileage ratings do not affect auto makers’ corporate average fuel economy totals. It is funny how the article ends with this. This is the root of the problem. When the SUV craze hit the U.S. market and we had low fuel prices there was no incentive to improve. And it looks like here we are in the year 2007 flirting with $3 gas prices again and we still don't have an incentive to improve. American's want to drive large cars, we will always want this, if the CAFE targets don't change then we will never improve. The auto industry has not self regulated it self over the last 20 years so what makes us think they will do it now. It was a missed opportunity to not improve the CAFE over the last 20 years it is a missed opportunity now. The Japanese car manufactures on the other hand have quietly develop powerful gas engines and hybrid electric vehicles. The Europeans manufactures have developed small displacement diesel engines to cope with $6.50 per gallon gas prices. The "D3" automakers have not.

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