Let's Talk About Fuel Economy and the EPA

Well, you know what they say about opinions, everybody's got one just like a certain anatomical part. Well this piece is one of mine. First off let's address the pic at the right. This is the Honda Civic Tourer Concept that will debut at the Geneva Motor Show in a few days (pics were leaked online by a Euro mag). Honda makes decent conveyances, but their styling (at least in the US) leaves a lot to be desired (desire being the key word). Even the new Acura NSX gets stuck with that ridiculous family grille (really, a smiley face supercar?). The Tourer Concept will go into production, somewhat watered down if history repeats, for the European market. Why not here? Wouldn't this car at least make a nice hybrid tourer (no word yet on available engines) to compete with the Prius V and the Ford C-Max? They would finally have a car that would more than compete, at least in the styling area. Honda's hybrid system feels the most coarse when driven and is under powered when compared to the Toyota and the Ford, especially the Ford, but that could be fixed. I know that differing regulations in each market can make things difficult, but if Toyota, Ford, and GM can do it, why not Honda? Let Honda know that you want (styling) change either online or by email to their offices in Torrance, CA; New York City; Marysville, OH; etc.

Let's talk about the EPA mileage estimates on cars. Yes folks they are estimates! The EPA numbers are created to allow manufacturers to meet fuel economy regulations. They are not real world numbers. To be fair, if they tested them in the "real" world, all cars would need to be tested at the same time in the same place. Ain't gonna happen. So testing is done under EPA guidelines by the manufacturers in a laboratory environment using machinery that simulates real-world driving. Which of course it doesn't, but the system is in place to give consumers a guideline for comparison. The EPA (supposedly) does spot checks to verify economy claims, but with the cutbacks to the EPA budget, that is happening less and less. I tell friends that are car shopping to expect at least 20 to 25 percent less than what is on the sticker, especially if they have a lead right foot. Then your mileage can be even lower. I live in the Los Angeles area where there are lots of hybrids and many drivers act like they're behind and need to


Fuel Economy and the EPA, Continued...

win the Indy 500. Stop-light Grand Prix indeed. Under those circumstances, no car will come close to their EPA numbers. Anyone who has driven a hybrid in the same manner as the EPA testing process knows that to do this, you need to get used to folks honking at you and giving you dirty looks. Real world, yea right. But, this is the system that we have and the EPA adjusts the process periodically to get closer to real world numbers and maybe it's time for another adjustment. I understand consumer frustration with fuel economy numbers. Consumers want Ferrari performance and great mileage too. We're getting closer to that day, but it ain't here yet. All that new tech and all. If you read the sticker, it states that the numbers are estimates and that your mileage will vary. I guess folks just like to sue to make a quick buck and all the lawsuits do is make cars more expensive (somebody's got to pay for the damages and legal fees). When companies exaggerate mileage numbers as Hyundai supposedly did, that is one thing, But consumers need to take responsibility for their part of the problem, their driving styles. The next time you come up behind a hybrid driver that is driving reeeeally slowly to stay in electric-only mode, they are just trying to maximize their fuel economy. Give them a break and just go around them when it is safe to do so.

Also, today's diesels and turbo-diesels, like the new Golf GTD (left), are as clean (or in some cases cleaner) than "regular" gas cars. Diesels cars may have low(er) horsepower ratings generally, but they make gobs of torque (gobs is a technical term) and torque is the power value that gets you going from a stop. VW has been selling diesels successfully for some time and the numbers are growing. Chrysler and even Chevrolet are starting to sell diesel engines in their cars and crossovers (and not just in trucks). BMW sells an X6 M model in Europe with a turbo-diesel and it is fast and efficient (but not cheap). Some car companies are even racing diesels. Diesel cars often exceed their EPA numbers in the real world or at least get closer to the government numbers. While diesel fuel is more expensive than regular unleaded, as more cars require premium unleaded that price differentiation goes away or is sometimes reversed (today, with the weirdness in gas pricing in California, diesel fuel is actually cheaper than premium unleaded in many places). I read a recent article where they discussed the time it takes to make up the investment in hybrid tech and diesel engines given their improved economy and was surprised to find that diesels recoup their increased investment faster than hybrids and if diesel fuel gets cheaper, that difference will go by the proverbial wayside. I've owned diesel powered cars before and thoroughly enjoyed them. You should consider a diesel-powered vehicle when you shop for your next new car purchase.

I recently went with a friend on a car hunt and was glad that the dealers we visited, quoted the EPA numbers, but stated that most drivers get less. Honesty is the best policy. I think that the disenfranchised owners that are suing, didn't have either reputable dealers or dealer personnel that understood how to sell a hybrid or diesel vehicle. And with today's plug-in hybrids, it requires more explaining. Wait 'til folks get a load of VW's new XL-1 Diesel-hybrid (below)  that gets around 200 mpg (yes, it is going into limited production). VW dealers, you've got some 'splaning to do. Can't wait.


 Today's cars are getting better and better and the future looks bright. At some point we will have to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, and EVs, hybrids, and even diesels (with bio-diesel) will be leading the charge.