What’s your car’s m.p.g. in the real world?
U.S. car buyers now have access to real-world fuel economy and emissions data on new vehicles, courtesy of a research group that helped reveal that Volkswagen was evading European emissions regulations in addition to cheating on U.S. tests.
Among the results, according to Nick Molden, founder and CEO of Emissions Analytics:
- Some brands — Ford, Fiat, Porsche and Mini — routinely score as much as 10% better in real-world driving than the window-sticker fuel-economy ratings generated in lab tests.
- Others — including Lincoln, Volvo, Ram, Mazda, Audi and GMC — regularly use more fuel than the window sticker indicates.
- U.S. EPA fuel-economy ratings are much more realistic than those used in Europe.
- Bigger engines — 3.0-liter displacement and larger — are likely to outperform the window-sticker rating, while the increasingly common small-displacement engines frequently underperform the window sticker.
“European emission and fuel-economy numbers are really bad. U.S. figures are pretty good,” Molden said at a presentation in Pontiac. As a result, U.S. air quality has improved more, because clean-air regulations here are having the desired effect, while the air in European cities hasn’t improved much recently.
“European governments allowed manufacturers to… game the system,” he said. “Diesel-gate revealed that.”
The real-world average for U.S. fuel economy is just 1.8% lower than the lab-generated window-sticker ratings, Molden said. Despite that, the tests show U.S. real-world fuel economy has been flat at 24.7 m.p.g. in combined city and highway driving since 2013.
You can see the ratings for yourself at http://usa.equaindex.com/. The list isn’t as comprehensive as the EPA’s www.fueleconomy.gov, which includes every vehicle sold in the U.S. and estimates annual fuel costs, but Equa has about 1,600 vehicles Emissions Analytics has tested since 2013.
“It’s a market solution that gives buyers information to choose the lowest emissions and highest mileage,” Molden said. “We want to deliver better fuel economy, lower CO2 and better air quality.
“The future is not more regulation.”
Founded in 2011 in the U.K., Emissions Analytics has a good reputation with regulators, engineers and other experts. It attaches advanced sensors to vehicles and monitors emissions while engineers drive on public roads. The company doesn’t reveal details of its test routes, but the process takes about a day, consists of 45% city and 55% highway roads, covers around 100 miles, avoids traffic jams and temperatures below 40 and above 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fact that EA conducts the tests on public roads means automakers can’t game the system, as VW did by programming diesel engines to perform differently under the detailed parameters the Environmental Protection Agency sets for its tests.
Lab tests such as the EPA procedure all automakers use remain important, but consistent real-world tests complement them, Molden said.
Emissions Analytics gets its income from research it does for automakers, suppliers, tire companies, oil companies, financial institutions and media organizations such as Motor Trend magazine, which provides vehicles for U.S. tests on Michigan and California roads. Motor Trend uses EA’s results for the fuel economy it reports on vehicles it tests.
Paying customers get a wealth of data for detailed analysis and development, but anybody can see the “top line” figures of real-word fuel economy, NOx and carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions on the Equa website.
The site has data on about 5,000 vehicles, including heavy-duty pickups. That opens up a new world of comparisons because U.S. regulations do not require automakers to test or report fuel economy for heavy-duty trucks. The vehicles — big, tough pickups such as the Ford F-350 — were originally exempted from fuel-economy tests because they’re used in farming, construction and other fields important to the economy. Since then, they’ve become popular for personal use, accounting for around one-third of total sales for Ford, GM and Ram pickups.
Molden said EA has data on enough vehicles that it can estimate real-world figures on some drivetrain combinations it hasn’t tested yet – the manual transmission version of a car it tested with an automatic, for instance. EA identifies those vehicles in the database, and adjusts the rating as needed when it has hard data.
The Equa index rates vehicles’ emissions like a report card: Letter grades from A to F. Only F is a failing grade that means the vehicle violated the legal limit. “A through D are different flavors of good,” Molden said. “F is an alarm bell.”
This article was written for the Detroit News. You can find the original content here.