December 16, 2013 – Vol.18 No.40
WHAT'S YOUR MPG?
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Here's a question that begs an answer.
When the EPA tests a car for fuel economy (or perhaps tests an electric vehicle for range) how many people are on board? Is the driver alone? Or, are all seats filled to capacity, or something in between? How about other vehicle testers, like Consumer Reports or any one of many car publications, a driver only or a driver and others?
It makes a difference as you probably know. Weight is an enemy of fuel economy (or electric vehicle range.) A five passenger car with five passengers on board won't go as far on gasoline or electrons as a five passenger car with one on board.
Seat bottoms filled or not, fuel economy in the U.S. is on the rise. The EPA has announced in its annual report that model year 2012 vehicles achieved an all-time high fuel economy of 23.6 miles per gallon (mpg). The EPA says, "This represents a 1.2 mpg increase over the previous year, making it the second largest annual increase in the last 30 years. Fuel economy has now increased in seven of the last eight years."
In press release the EPA goes on to say that, "Fuel economy will continue to improve under the Obama administration’s historic National Clean Car Program standards. The program doubles fuel economy standards by 2025 and cuts vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by half. The standards will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 will result in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 per vehicle. The program will also save 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 will reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil imported from OPEC every day."
The EPA says in its report, “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2013” that much of the improvements in mpg are due to the rapid adoption of more efficient technologies such as gasoline direct injection engines, turbochargers, and advanced transmissions. Hybrids, diesels, electrics and plug-in hybrids have contributed as well.
So, that's great that the Corporate Average Fuel Economy is up. But in real driving what are people getting for mpg? Sometimes there's big difference between what the government says people should be getting and what they actually are. (Frankly a better way to rate fuel economy would be for the EPA to give an initial mileage rating when a car is first introduced (or significantly altered) then rely on consumer input to find better averages.)
The EPA, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy already has something like this through its combined-effort, Fuel Economy.gov website which, aside from a searchable database of fuel economy (and other ratings) for all cars sold in the U.S. going back to 1984, also allows drivers offer their real-world fuel economy experiences. Anyone in the market for a new or used car – and concerned about fuel economy – should use the site as a reference point. Drivers too, wanting to check their mpg with the EPA rating and mpg offered by other driver should use the site. As helpful as drivers are in submitting their mpg information, not all models have driver input, unfortunately.
A much better website for checking fuel economy on particular cars is Fuelly.com, which is kind of a social network for drivers and their fuel economy. With Fuelly you can become a free member and contribute to the site's database of real world mpgs for your car or your motorcycle. Or you can be a bystander and just browse though the global list of vehicles.
The site publishes detailed information from each driver/member and breaks the results into fuel economy and cost for each car and averages for model years of the same car. There's charts and graphs as well. If you're curious about a particular person's fuel economy you could even make Fuelly friends as it were. Some car models are represented by thousands of member/drivers, making for some really solid statistics.
Overall, for many cars, Fuelly is probably a more reliable source of real world fuel economy data than what the government has to offer.
Check it out.
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