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EPA Plans New Fuel Economy Standards

Michael Conner Tech Manager
Published 1-27-05
Graphic By: Jen Hight
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is revisiting the miles-per-gallon (MPG) debate, offering up changes that will take effect in the 2008 model year of cars. The changes could significantly change the currently skewed numbers of city and highway estimates. The EPA hopes that this update to the gas-mileage estimates of cars will better reflect real-world driving conditions.

The new change, however, could cause a significant reduction in highway and city driving estimates. Using the new methods, the new city mpg estimates would drop, on average, about 10 to 20 percent from today's standards. Accordingly, highway estimates are expected to drop five to 15 percent on average.

This change was brought about due to the sometimes-varying highway and city estimates on cars that are never really achieved. While the last time the EPA modified their mpg estimation process was back in 1985, the current process has been relatively the same for over 30 years. Over the past decade, many things have changed that need to be figured into gas mileage estimates that the current process neglects. Such changes are things like faster highway speeds, increasing traffic congestion and the addition of power-draining accessories like air conditioning.

Keeping in line with real-world conditions, the new fuel-economy estimates will reflect data from three main factors that contribute to fuel economy: cold temperature operation, running air-conditioning, and high-speed/rapid acceleration.

The EPA also stated that the new test will also consider other conditions that might affect mpg estimates. Other mpg reducers that are being considered include conditions like wind velocity, tire inflation and road grade.

Since the effects will take place in the model-year-2008 cars, consumers will start seeing cars with the new fuel economy ratings by fall 2007.

In a recent test on the current mpg estimate standards, the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that out of 41 cars tested, over 87 percent (36 cars) experienced worse fuel economy than the EPA estimates stated. The average deviation from the EPA standard was 4.0 mpg.

Other tests by Consumer Reports magazine showed that current EPA mpg estimates could be as far off at 50 percent.

Although the new EPA fuel economy tests will get closer to real-world driving, the EPA states that no test can accurately depict what consumers will find once they get out on the road.

I'm seeing red.

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