EPA Reviews Fuel Efficiency Tests

Critics complain that the base fuel economy test is 30 years old and seldom reflects the real world, while EPA argues its numbers are for comparison purposes only.

Published: 16-Dec-2004

N class=article-body>How many miles can your car travel on a single gallon of gas? If you think it’s close to the fuel efficiency estimates provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, you’d probably be right. That is, unless you own one of those highly touted hybrid models.

According to EPA test ratings, gas-electric hybrid cars can travel 47 miles to 63 miles on a single gallon, depending on the vehicle model and options. But actual real-world performance, according to experts and owners, yields results that are far from the numbers produced in lab tests.

For example, the EPA rates the 2004 Toyota Prius at 55 mpg and the competing Civic Hybrid at 47.5 mpg for combined city and highway driving. But in May, Consumer Reports reported that in its independent road tests, the Prius got 44 mpg while the Honda hybrid netted 36 mpg.

Car makers, enthusiasts and experts are all quick to note that hardly any vehicle in the United States ever matches the EPA fuel efficiency rating listed. Most cars, industry watchers say, get about 10 percent to 15 percent less than their EPA rating. But among hybrid cars, the discrepancy may be as high as 30 percent, say some EPA critics.

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