EPA challenged by third-party fuel economy test

Fuel economy figures from the Environmental Protection Agency have been criticized in recent years for being, in some cases, wildly inaccurate, and after enduring public controversies about some automakers' mile-per-gallon claims. In 2012, Hyundai and Kia admitted that some of their economy numbers were exaggerated, and Ford had to re-rate the C-Max because its original stats were too high. An alternative has arrived in the form of third-party testing company Emissions Analytics, which has begun performing real-world evaluations on vehicles using a system called Real MPG, and it has partnered with Intellichoice and Motor Trend to publish the results.

The company equips vehicles with 170-pounds of portable testing equipment and drives them in real-world conditions around an 88-mile route in Southern California. According to Intellichoice, the tests take about 140 minutes and include residential, city and highway driving. In the city sections, average speeds are about 22.5 miles per hour, going all the way up to 65 mph on the highway.

So far, about 100 vehicles from the 2013 and 2014 model years have been tested, but the differences have been intriguing. According to a report in UCR Today, on average the overall difference between its results and those of the EPA is only about one percent, but some vehicles have shown variations of as much as 20-percent higher or lower than EPA figures. For example, a 2013 Honda Fit with a manual transmission is an outlier in the group. It's rated 27 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway by the EPA, but in Emissions Analytics' test, it shows 30.7 mpg / 37.1 mpg. By way of contrast, a 2013 Honda Accord LX sedan managed just 19.8 in the city and 33.6 highway, compared to its EPA ratings of 27 / 36.

The similarity of many of these tests indicates that the EPA may be on the right track with its procedures. That said, we sure do appreciate the more real-world results obtained by Emissions Analystics. All of the Real MPG figures so far are available through Intellichoice.

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