Following a damning report from Consumer Reports last week–among many other publications who claim to not be able to achieve 47 mpg in a new Ford hybrid vehicle–the Environmental Protection Agency is filing an official investigation as to whether Ford has fudged numbers on the 2013 Ford C-Max and Fusion Hybrid.
Consumer Reports says that it’s achieved just 37 mpg with the C-Max hybrid and 39 mpg in the Fusion Hybrid in mixed driving. For the size of each vehicle, both numbers are fantastic. Unfortunately, neither are anywhere close to their 47 mpg city/47 mpg highway/47 combined fuel economy ratings.
In a brief report, the EPA said it will look into the data and report its findings when it has them.
As stated in other reports, including those brought up by the woman who sued Honda in small claims court earlier this year, hybrids have a much greater variability in fuel economy than conventional cars. The reason stems from the electric propulsion system often cutting out after the car needs to turn on its gas engine for more power. That is to say, if your right foot presses harder on the accelerator, the car uses more gas.
Fuel economy has been a major topic of discussion this year, as Hyundai and Kia were dinged at the beginning of November after it was determined that 20 of their cars were listing inflated fuel economy numbers. The EPA has the right to impose a fine on the two automakers, which it still might do.
If it’s found that Ford was exaggerating fuel economy numbers for its latest hybrids, it could face similar sanctions from the EPA. But how does this happen in the first place? Doesn’t the EPA certify all fuel economy numbers on all new cars? Well, yes, it does, but only kinda sorta, more or less.
The EPA only checks a handful of new cars a year at its Ann Arbor testing facilities. Automakers self-check their fuel economy ratings. In the case of Hyundai and Kia, their coastdown procedure, designed to help them account for real-world friction, wasn’t added into the equation.
Ford might be more of the same. Automakers know the procedures for meeting EPA fuel economy requirements. The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford C-Max can both travel up to 62 mph in all-electric mode, which would greatly help fuel economy ratings. But if it’s found that most real-world driving involves a little more oomph, the gas engine could kick in a lot faster. Fuel economy numbers could be significantly diminished.
Automakers have a lot at stake with fuel economy numbers, especially when it comes to advertising. To game the system is normal; any advantage that will lead to more sales at the end of the day is a good one.
We’ll see in the coming weeks if Ford has to adjust its numbers, and we wouldn’t be too surprised if it does. We don’t think there’s anything malicious behind Ford’s fuel economy numbers, beyond taking advantage of a flawed testing procedure.
Source: Detroit News