EPA tests mileage ratings for 15% of new cars

Source: E&E • Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012

While many people consider mpg ratings when buying a car, about 15 percent of the cars on the market actually have their mileage verified by U.S. EPA regulators.

The fuel economy tests are performed at one lock-and-key facility in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Automakers do their own testing and assign their own ratings. They are allowed a 3 percent variance between their ratings and the test results from EPA, which does spot checks.

“It is rare to see a difference because the procedures are literally hundreds of pages of detailed directions. Automakers have a clear compliance road map, and we know EPA is checking randomly,” said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in an email. She also said that falsifying a report could lead to a penalty of $37,500 per vehicle, per day — plus jail time for the person responsible.

Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. declined to comment. They all referred questions to Bergquist.

A range of factors determine a car’s estimated mpg rating, and actual performance may depend on the driver, weather conditions, road surfaces and where the car is driving.

When the cost of fuel increases, more emphasis is put on fuel-economy ratings. But today, with the influx of hybrid vehicles on the market, the rating system has become more of a theoretical index rather than a true calculation of gas used (Zlati Meyer, Detroit Free Press, July 22). — WW