By Jon LeSage
In this day and age of aggressive, ambitious targets for fuel economy increases and greenhouse gas/CO2 reductions in the US, European Union, and elsewhere, it’s not shocking to see skepticism and investigative reporting revved up by Consumer Reports and other sources. Hyundai and Kia are going through the ringer, and now Ford Motor Co. is in the spotlight (and the Environmental Protection Agency, which created the numbers) over its claim that the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid gets 47 miles per gallon in combined city/highway figures.
Consumer Reports put a lot of mileage on the 2013 Ford C-Max and Fusion Hybrid, getting 37 combined mpg in the C-Max and 39 combined in the Fusion Hybrid. For the Consumer Reports team, it was the largest discrepancy between overall-mpg results and the estimates published by EPA among any of the current models. They’re about 20% lower than the EPA rating.
The report pushed EPA into reviewing the mileage claims of the two new Ford models. It wasn’t long after the investigation into the Hyundai and Kia scandal, so EPA was sensitive about appearing to drag its heals on the matter; the agency doesn’t know when it will release results from its investigation.
Ford’s marketing chief Jim Farley has dismissed the claims. “Early C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg. This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions, and other factors can cause mileage to vary,” he said.
Ford’s group VP global product development, Raj Nair, reasserted a similar company stance recently to Ford is standing by the rating and added that, “we absolutely agree with EPA that hybrids are far more variable in the test cycle compared to real world driving conditions in conventional vehicles. We are working closely with the agency to determine if any changes are needed for the industry relative to hybrid vehicle testing.”
Nair thinks a lot of it has to do with driving style – a “lead foot” combined with environmental factors vary mileage performance, he said. The difference between 75 mph and 65 mph can produce a 7 mpg difference in fuel economy; outside temperature differences can change the numbers by 5 mpg, and breaking in the vehicle through its first 6,000 miles affects mileage, he said.
EPA is adding equipment to its Michigan laboratory that might be attempting to get away with a lie. By next fall, the EPA expects to be finished with a five-year upgrade to its National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich. All eyes are watching.