Your '08 Prius' Fuel Efficiency Just Dropped 16 Percent

The EPA's new one fuel economy calculations take into account things like acceleration, winter driving, air conditioner use, and more realistic speeds.

Published: 26-Jan-2008

Old-school Detroit must be smiling just a bit right now. After decades of providing unrealistic fuel-efficiency estimates—those big numbers touted in magazine ads and printed in large fonts on the vehicle-details stickers in new car lots—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally modified its method for calculating average miles per gallon, and the most fuel-efficient cars on the road have taken the biggest hit. Then again, they have a lot farther to fall.

The new method, which applies to all 2008 models and beyond, still doesn't quite reflect actual driving conditions, but unlike the old numbers, which basically reflected your mileage in heaven (or, if you prefer, in an idealized lab setting), the new ones take into account things like acceleration, winter driving, air conditioner use, and realistic speeds (ever tried doing 55 in a 55 zone on a moderate-traffic day? It's a recipe for abuse). Alas, the new formula appears to favor the gas guzzlers. Combined mileage for a 2007 Toyota Prius (automatic, 4 cylinder, 1.5 L engine) is down 16 percent under the new formula, to 46 mpg. The '07 Honda Civic Hybrid is also down 16 percent, to 42 mpg.

On the other hand, the Hummer, that very symbol of anti-environmental profligacy, didn't do as badly. The mileage for a 2007 H3 with 4WD only fell 12 percent. Its new EPA rating is 15 mpg.

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