EPA changes new car mileage

Test for­mula takes ef­fect with 2017 mod­els

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Tom Krisher AP Auto Writer

DETROIT » The change, which be­gins with the 2017 model year, comes largely be­cause peo­ple are load­ing up cars with more op­tions such as heated seats that use elec­tric­ity and cre­ate drag on en­gines. They’re also run­ning air con­di­tion­ing more than in the past, and they’re driv­ing faster, both of which cut into mileage.

At least ini­tially, it could make it hard for buy­ers to com­pare the mileage of ve­hi­cles from one model year to the next, although the gov­ern­ment says it will up­date num­bers in the next few weeks so older cars re­flect the change. Con­sumers also will still be able to click on a but­ton and see the mileage un­der the old cal­cu­la­tion.

It’s all a part of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s quest to make the win­dow sticker mileage es­ti­mates as close to re­al­world num­bers as pos­si­ble, said By­ron Bunker, direc­tor of com­pli­ance with the agency’s Of­fice of Trans­porta­tion and Air Qual­ity.

The agency lets au­tomak­ers run mileage tests and then ap­ply a math­e­mat­i­cal for­mula to come up with the num­bers that go on the win­dows. Pre­vi­ously, the for­mula was based on data from the 2002 to 2006 model years. It was last changed in 2008. But start­ing with 2017 ve­hi­cles, which re­cently be­gan ar­riv­ing at deal­ers, the for­mula was based on data from the 2011 to 2016 model years.

As the U.S. econ­omy re­cov­ered from the Great Re­ces­sion dur­ing the past five years, peo­ple started buy­ing more new cars. With in­ter­est rates low and cheap fi­nanc­ing and sweet lease deals avail­able, they loaded them up with more op­tions. Those use elec­tric­ity and force the al­ter­na­tor to work harder, cre­at­ing drag on the en­gines and cut­ting gas mileage.

The data from the newer ve­hi­cles more ac­cu­rately rep­re­sents the mileage that peo­ple are likely to get on the road, im­prov­ing the es­ti­mates, Bunker said. The agency also has more data from higher-mileage ve­hi­cles to plug into the for­mula. Also, the 2011 to 2016 mod­els are more ef­fi­cient, so any drag on the en­gines has a big­ger im­pact on mileage, he said.

“When they as­sessed the for­mula it­self, they are look­ing at real-world im­pact, so they would be con­sid­er­ing ad­di­tional al­ter­na­tor loads,” said John Ger­man, se­nior fel­low with the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil on Clean Trans­porta­tion, a non­profit group that ex­posed Volk­swa­gen’s emis­sions cheat­ing scan­dal.

The EPA said about 15 per­cent of all 2017 ve­hi­cles will see a 1 mpg drop in com­bined city/high­way mileage due to the changes,

and only a small per­cent­age will see city mileage de­cline.

Peo­ple are driv­ing faster be­cause speed lim­its have gone up since 2008.

Ger­man said the im­pact from higher driv­ing speeds would cut into high­way mileage more than it would com­bined or city mileage.

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