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Hybrids Beware? EPA Revises Mileage Standards 550

Posted by timothy
from the lies-damn-lies-and-downhill-coasters dept.
Shivetya writes "The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a new system for determining the fuel economy of many cars and trucks. Hardest hit will be hybrids as all-electric driving is not considered. At the same time, many medium-duty vehicles will get rated, but not have to be published until 2011 This move to more realistic ratings will severely reduce the high numbers some cars have posted."
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Hybrids Beware? EPA Revises Mileage Standards

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  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:13PM (#17370130) Homepage Journal
    From the EPA site itself http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy/420f06009.htm#fuele stimates [epa.gov]

    A site to enter your own observed information http://www.fueleconomy.gov/mpg/MPG.do?action=addGu estVehicle [fueleconomy.gov]

    or lookup what others have recorded http://www.fueleconomy.gov/mpg/MPG.do?action=addGu estVehicle [fueleconomy.gov]
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jason Earl (1894) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:27PM (#17370264) Homepage Journal

    The big deal is that I get a "real world" 40 mpg out of my 96 Honda Civic, and I don't have a trunk full of toxic batteries. Sure all EPA gas mileage ratings are currently very optimistic, but they are especially optimistic for hybrids, and that's a problem.

    The Prius is a great car, but you could almost certainly have gotten a non-hybrid car that was more efficient in real world driving at a much lower price. You wouldn't have to worry about batteries either. As a concrete example my 96 Civic gets much better gas real world mileage than my mother's 2005 Civic hybrid.

  • by wwiiol_toofless (991717) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:31PM (#17370306)
    ...remains the bicycle. But I ain't riding one, I've got whole cows to devour...
  • by SoopahMan (706062) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:35PM (#17370342)
    I really doubt Hybrids will be as markedly impacted by the new tests as suggested in the EPA's discussion. Rapid accelleration is a reason many car buyers buy their car - I own a Prius and I can't even list for you how many times someone told me about its 0-60 performance while I was considering buying it - as a selling point for buying the car! Even over on GreenHybrid.com where fuel efficiency is the point of the entire website, people made endless claims about the Prius' ability to take off off the line.

    So bravo for these changes being added. Toyota and Honda are obviously the leaders in this field and they'll either make no change to their strategy and just keep having the highest EPA numbers, or adjust their strategy slightly to keep high EPA numbers but handle rapid accelleration with good mileage numbers - something that, by the way, the current Prius does not do, regardless of how many claims salesmen and Prius enthusiasts made. It gets its great numbers when cruising, or starting and stopping at low speeds - which is just what the old EPA standards tested.

    Any environmentalist worried about the Prius dropping from 60mpg EPA to 44mpg should keep in mind 2 things:

    The Hummer will probably drop from 11mpg to 9. Single digits won't improve sales. They might harm them. Might.

    The 2008/2009 Prius has been claimed by Toyota to get 75mpg under the current standards - so it's entirely possible the new EPA measure will put it at... 60mpg.

    So even if the new tests somehow favored gas guzzlers, which I doubt, Honda and Toyota have the technological lead and their MPG numbers are only going to continue to run away from the rest of the pack leaving GM and Ford's "hybrid" sub-30mpg numbers further and further behind.
  • by markh100 (696858) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:36PM (#17370354)
    The summary is misleading. The summary states that "all-electric driving is not considered". The article states that hybrids will be most impacted by the rule changes, because aggressive driving and cold weather driving will theoretically minimize the impact on gas mileage provided by all-electric drive.

    We bought a Prius in September. We average about 55 MPG in warmer weather, and 47 MPG in driving in cold Michigan/Canadian weather (both city and highway), so I don't think Hybrids will see as big of a drop as the article claims. The only time we see bad gas mileage is for short city trips of 5 minutes or less from a cold start in cold weather. During those for 3-4 minutes, we average anywhere between 15-25 MPG. Once the car is warmed up, the average jumps to around 45-50 MPG. If the goal of the EPA is to make hybrids look as bad as possible, the test should be a short, four minute drive from a cold weather start. In any other condition, the hybrids (at least the Prius) will continue to score well above other consumer automobiles in gas mileage ratings.
  • learn to drive (Score:3, Informative)

    by tehwebguy (860335) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:47PM (#17370466) Homepage
    the epa can do whatever they want and it won't change the "real world" results that most people get.

    how many people do you know who always have their foot flooring the gas or brake? if people learned to use the accelerator and brakes effectively they would probably save 10 mpg on every tank.

    i'll bet i get better mileage in my eclipse than a decent percentage of hybrid owners, simply because most people don't think about how they drive.
  • by dknj (441802) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:47PM (#17370478) Journal
    because an SUV has a 5L v8 that doesn't even notice an a/c compresser turning on. while it is true most new cars switch off the a/c upon load to avoid impacting gas milage.. your civic's gas mileage WILL take a hit when the a/c is running full blast during a hot summer day.

    for instance, my car tells me i get about 2-3mpg less when driving around without the turbo spooled (4-banger, below 3000rpm). that's an extra tank of gas consumed per month, and my car is relatively newish. who knows how much those older cars drink because they can't disengage the a/c under load

    fyi, with spirited driving with or without a/c, my car consumes roughly the same amount of gas.
  • California disagrees (Score:4, Informative)

    by stomv (80392) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:00PM (#17370640) Homepage
    51.4% of a barrel of oil goes towards gasoline [ca.gov] according to the state of California.
  • by giminy (94188) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:06PM (#17370696) Homepage Journal
    I drive a diesel (VW Jetta) and it is awesome. No cold weather starting problems, either, even when I lived in central new york, where the temperature was regularly in the single digits. Most fuel sellers put additives in their diesel in the winter to prevent the fuel from gelling, and engines have very good glow plugs these days. The motors are even quiet and soot-free these days (unless you really floor the gas pedal)...every time I've told a passenger in my car that it's diesel, they've been surprised and/or didn't believe me.

    It's also zippy as heck. The motor produces a ton of torque at really low RPMs so it feels a lot faster than it really is, but the feeling makes it a ton of fun to drive.

    The biggest reason that more diesels aren't sold in the states is that California banned the sale of new ones. Several other states adopted California's emissions laws (New York and most of the northeastern states). Consequently not many car companies are interested in investing the time, effort (replace previous two words with 'money') to bring diesels to the US -- it's illegal to sell them in many states so it would be a lot of money spent for not much return in sales revenue.

    You can buy used diesel passenger vehicles in any of those states, but it's hard to find them (since they were never sold as new there in the first place) and they fetch a premium. Case in point: I bought mine *used* for $19,500 in New Jersey (where new diesels are actually legal to sell), and it had 42k miles on it at the time. New, the car's sticker price was about $22,000. Now it has 60k miles on it and my car will fetch $21,000 without too much trouble (I live in California these days). It's kind of a shame they aren't more common, as the mileage is good (36 city/50 highway is my real-world driving).

    Before people call me a diesel zealot, I'll definitely mention the bad things: they are bad in that they create more particulate in their exhaust, which has been shown in studies to be a carcinogen. Old-skool diesel fuel sold in the US also contained lots of sulfur, which created sulfur dioxide in the exhaust, which in turn created acid rain. The sulfur also prevented good catalytic converters from being used, so diesels create way more NOx. Now that we have low-sulfur diesel in the US, I think diesel cars will become quite a bit better...but the reputation they garnered as smoking, smelly, sooty, bad-for-the-environment cars through the 70s and 80s will probably hurt their chance at widespread adoption in the US.

    Diesel is also interestingly becoming more expensive than gasoline where I live. I find it funny, because diesel fuel is a lot easier to produce than gasoline, or so my fuel engineer friend tells me. Still, mile for mile diesel fuel is cheaper, since I get about the double the mileage that I would in a similar gasoline vehicle...
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by khallow (566160) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:27PM (#17370876)
    The old Honda Civic VX (straight gasoline) could get 50+ MPG and it was considerably better on the highway. My mom got 55-60 MPG with her VX on the highway, but it dropped to 45-50 in city driving.
  • by Engineer-Poet (795260) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:42PM (#17371006) Homepage Journal
    All current hybrids use NiMH batteries, which have no cadmium toxicity issues (unlike NiCd). They're soon going to switch to Li-ion because the specific power (kW/kg) and energy (Wh/kg) are better with some of the new chemistries.

    Li-ion batteries have few toxicity issues either, and the new chemistries like iron phosphate and titanium spinel have even less.

    Of course, it still makes sense to recycle batteries instead of landfilling them. Lead-acid car batteries are already the most-recycled items in the USA, and the more valuable the materials in the battery (nickel, lithium, cobalt in the old Li-ions) the more attractive it will be to recycle them.
  • by MushMouth (5650) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:48PM (#17371066) Homepage
    The only way to put to charge the Prius's battery is by putting gasoline into it's tank. It has no external charging solution from the factory and adding your own invalidates the warranty. All-electric mode just means there is enough residual charge to propel the car, that charge got there by running it's gasoline engine.
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by modecx (130548) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:49PM (#17371078)
    Yep I love diesel as much as the next diesel freak, however, VW, the one and only major manufacturer selling diesel cars in the US, is sending only one diesel vehicle to the US for '07: the V10 Touareg TDI, priced at ~$60k... Ostensibly, the reason for this would seem to be that they don't want to deal with our revised emissions standards.
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:2, Informative)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:58PM (#17371160) Homepage Journal
    I drive a civic that gets 33 MPG. I can drive 4 people and a trunk full of stuff around NYC with no problems at all. I'm bobbing and weaving with the taxis. The hybrid version of my car gets 40 MPG, costs $10,000 more, and wouldn't perform much (if any) better.

    If the hybrid got double the mileage then there might be a reason to get it. But you don't have to ride a lawnmower to get similar mileage.
  • RTFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by vtcodger (957785) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:12PM (#17371310)
    ***It is, that said, an exceptionally stupid rule; the Prius gets a huge benefit from the all-electric mode, and that ought to be included in the mileage calculations***

    It very well may be included. The article summary omits a couple of words -- namely "some of"-- from the sentance in the article that says. "Hybrids will be hit harder because the new test eliminates some of the all-electric driving that helped them produce impressive results under the present system" The article is not specific about what driving will not be counted.

    My guess (and it is a guess) is that they will try to end the test with the battery in the same charge state that it started the test and won't count 'borrowed' miles that come from running on the battery and not restoring the charge.

  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by dryeo (100693) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:18PM (#17371370)
    In my limited experience Diesels have lots more engine compression braking. I used to drive a Nissan PU with a SD25 diesel. Gear down, let of the clutch and get pulled over by the cops to check your brake lights.
    With a 22.5 to 1 compression ratio (close to 500 lbs engine compression) it had lots of engine braking.
    I think the difference is that this engine had a butterfly valve in the intake hooked up to the throttle and a vacuum line to the fuel pump for throttle operation and others have the throttle connected straight to the fuel pump with no valve in the manifold to create vacuum.
    Another nice thing about that engine that given a hill to jump start it you didn't need electric power for it to run.
  • by Engineer-Poet (795260) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:19PM (#17371382) Homepage Journal

    In order to get off the "foreign oil tit", as you put it, we'd have to do alternatives for lubricants, plastics, asphalt, jet fuel, diesel oil, heating oil, etc.

    Your claim is refuted by the facts.

    • US oil production is around 5 million bbl/day [doe.gov].
    • Jet fuel, lubricants, and asphalt don't come to half that [doe.gov].
    • Diesel and heating oil (combined under distillates [doe.gov]) are somewhat more, but diesel consumption can be slashed by moving freight to rail, electrifying trucks (don't laugh, the tech is here) and just making them more efficient (WalMart is looking to double the economy of its fleet).

    It would be quite difficult to run the US without imported oil, but it would be even harder to get all ground transport and electric generation off fossil fuels — but even that looks possible with current technology [blogspot.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:24PM (#17371476)
    Lutz is talking about PREVIOUSLY accumulated credits - GM/Ford are just as fuel efficient as toyota/honda now.

    And please, check the top 4 rated by JD Powers, notice 2 GM brands and Mercury are all in the top up there?

    Only 2 companies in the WORLD spend more money on research and development than GM - Pfizer and Microsoft.
    Only 3 companies in the world spend more money on R and D than Ford - GM, Pfizer, and Microsoft.

    Your a troll, please move out of the US or leave the gene pool
  • Re:Big lazy motors (Score:3, Informative)

    by fireslack (1039158) <fireslack@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:54PM (#17371802) Journal
    I know this is probably flamebait anyway, but I'll bite. First off, saying American people like to drive "big SUV which have lazy fat motors" is like saying Europeans drive cars that make them look stuck up. There are plenty of people who don't like big SUVs. Why do you think Toyotas, Hondas, and Hyundais sell so well in America? Fuel stingy Toyota has already surpassed Ford and its lazy fat (discontinued) Excursion in market share, so what does that tell you? I'm not defending many Americans' decision to drive fuel inefficient vehicles, but I won't go so far as to take that choice away from them. I do wish that Europeans' tastes' for diesels would reach our shores. I think they are a great alternative to anemic small displacement gas engines and hybrids. As for American cars' "several decades old" motors, that may have been true even 8 years ago, but today is the exception rather than the rule. Look at Ford's Duratec, GM's Ecotec and LSx engines. Even the small block Chevy, now in its 53rd year, bears little resemblence to the original, or event o its predecessor from 3-4 years ago.
  • Re:Heat? Hills? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cerlyn (202990) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:58PM (#17371848)

    I own a 2005 Toyota Prius, and I can get 53-57 miles per gallon (or more) easily. This is not just measurements on local roads, but includes highway driving, some stop & go traffic, and all the things seen on my daily commute.

    The above was calculated not just over short distances, but over the full 400+ miles I can get out of the ~11 gallon tank before I decide to refill it (typically, I put 8-9 gallons in, and calculate mileage both via the on board computer, and how much fuel I put it versus the trip odometer). Over shorter distances (40 miles or so), I have gotten potentially 60+ miles per gallon.

    Granted, I am in somewhat ideal conditions (the warm Southern US (Air Conditioning is almost always on), lots of streets where I can go 40-50 MPH (one of the Prius' sweet spots), reasonably timed traffic lights...), and I am a reasonably cautious driver with a good insurance rate, so that may factor in a bit. Daisy-chaining short trips, or otherwise not just doing them, helps with the gas mileage a lot (a few short trips takes 2-3 MPG off a tank of gas' result easily).

    So while I may be exceptional, it is definitely possible in my view to get the EPA mileage for a Prius. But I did not get it because it was an efficient car - I got it because it was a reasonably priced mid-size vehicle which fit my needs (and height!), and was comfortable to drive.

  • by WizardOfZid (588739) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:11PM (#17371950)
    Several comments asked for some real numbers from hybrid owners. I live in Phoenix and get low 50s in a combination of city and highway driving (last time I looked my display showed 52.2).

    Going up grade the car performs great. Last week I drove up to Flagstaff and had no problems maintaining 65 for the 5-10 mile stretches of 5-7% grade with 4 people in the car. The electric engine augments the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and that helps the performance.

    On the A/C front, the Prius has a multistage compressor so the hit on the car is minimal under moderate heat. I see plenty of hot conditions out here and the milage doesn't seem to be effected much at all even at maximum cooling. If anything, the mileage is a bit lower in cold conditions due to the engine running longer to bring the engine up to temp for emisions management. It also is an ELECTRIC motor compressor so the power used is not directly from the gas engine. That should help with the new EPA tests.

    Do I drive like a type "A" personality? No, that never did appeal to me to race up to a stop light to get one car ahead. I do drive to take advantage of the car I have. YMMV.

  • Re:Heat? Hills? (Score:2, Informative)

    by lotho brandybuck (720697) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:20PM (#17372016) Homepage Journal

    Hi,

    I did the hill calculation for going over Barlow Pass in Oregon (Mt. Hood..) before I bought my 02 Prius. Don't have it, but I remember how I did it: For your example...

    calculating vertical climb horsepower.. assuming grade is rise/run proportion.

    Given that 1 horsepower is 33000 pounds 1 vertical foot up in a minute.

    50mph is 0.833 miles/minute. at a 7% grade up, its 0.05833 vertical miles, or 308 vertical feet/ minute.

    3500 pounds of car and load, that's 1.08e6 feet*pounds lift per minute.

    1.08e3/33000(ft*lbs/min)/hp gives about 33hp for the vertical climb, leaving 42 hp for friction (aerodynamic and road) I believe this car only uses about 14-15 horsepower for friction and windage at 60. Even derating for loss of power at altitude, (70% at 10000ft?) there's still margin to do this.

    Huge horsepowers in modern cars (>100HP) are not needed for climb, they're used for acceleration performance.

    Now.. accelleration 0-60 in the 02 Prius is not great. It's fantastic 0-20, okay 20-35 and terrible from 35-65. I believe the '04 version and up really improved that by doubling the electrical torque. The surge torque you get from the electrics are not affected by altitude, which can be nice.

    A bigger concern might be the cold weather performance. I've noticed occasional starting issues in the 02 Prius under sub 20's F. Basically, if the car can't start itself on the first crank over it freaks out and lights up a lot of scary indicators. I've had this happen 3 times. I believe they've got a fix for this on the car.. I'm of the mindset to just not care as long as I understand why the indicators are up when this happens. Of course, I live in a valley where it rarely gets under freezing. I would be worried about sub zero F temps for this vehicle.

    The Hybrid is started by the traction battery.. so in theory... they could give it far superior start performance in cold weather.

    Cheers,

    Alex

  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Technician (215283) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:25PM (#17372068)
    The big deal is that I get a "real world" 40 mpg out of my 96 Honda Civic,

    What nobody is posting is the fuel ratings for many diffrent styles of driving. Highway and city are fine, but what about all the mail delivery and newspaper routes. During the big storm in Louisana, many people simply ran out of gas on the freeway because they were getting less than 5 MPG in the creep and stop driving. I hope the EPA includes local delivery estimates to the mix.

    I do have a Prius. I have stuck a kilowatt inverter in it. It doubles as an emergency generator. I have run for days at a time off it. It would start, run at a fast idle for about 5 minutes and shut down again and repeat in about 20 minutes. A regular car would be out of gas in under 24 hour sitting at idle. I use about 1/8 of a tank a day running this way while running a couple CF lights, the fireplace blower, the small TV, the fridg, and a small chest freezer. I ran that way for an ice storm that knocked out the power for 2 days. When I ran low on gas, I filled it and still got 32 MPG on that tank. (my all time low) Not bad for 2 days of running getting 0 MPG and a week of commuting.

    I would have never been able to do that with a conventional car.

    The choice of a car sometimes comes down to more than just a replacement for public transportation.

    I would like to see the real world numbers for letter carriers and city buses.
  • Re:Big lazy motors (Score:3, Informative)

    by fred fleenblat (463628) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:15PM (#17372486) Homepage
    I am an American so I am perhaps blinded by my proximity to the problem, but as near as I can figure...

    * SUV's are the only category of vehicle that is available with 7+ passenger seating, aside from minivans. There are whole swaths of suburbia where mommies and daddies cart their kids and their kids' friends around every weekend. A 4 passenger econobox is simply not adequate for this task and I absolutely guarantee that this is part of the purchase decision. (Minivans, as an alternative, are not much more fuel efficient than SUVs.)

    * There is a big safety hangover from when someone published the obvious conclusion that a heavier car will suffer less damage in a crash than a smaller car. Since then, very few people will buy anything smaller than a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla and the rest will buy the biggest vehicle they can afford.

    * The big motors are there because we have a lot of hills (in some parts of the US) and a *lot* of stoplights. The big motors supply a lot of torque and they accelerate without fuss. A small motor will of course suffice but they can be noisy and at times require work on the part of the driver to select the correct gear. (Yanks like auto transissions, don't forget)

    * A lot of us Americans have owned and driven small cars, especially during high school and college years. Generally, these are cheap used cars that, frankly, suck. The first thing everyone does when they get a decent job is to buy a new car, and they always get a larger, more powerful one to erase the bad memories of the datsun or paseo or whatever it was.

    Anyway, my point is that it's not entirely about the big american wasteful image. There are some practical concerns that weigh into the choices Americans make re which cars to buy and if someone wants to get us to use more fuel efficient vehicles, they need to address these concerns rather than just insulting us for our choices.
  • Not true (Score:2, Informative)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:36PM (#17372650)
    The only way to put to charge the Prius's battery is by putting gasoline into it's tank.
    Regenerative braking. When you're in stop-and-go traffic the stop provides the energy for the go. Conventional brakes will just convert all your kinetic energy to heat, the hybrids convert a non-trivial portion of it back to electricity. Now for long distance highway driving, you don't get that advantage so the mileage should be more in line with the ICE. However the hybrid can run the engine closer to its most efficient RPM, or run it harder for a while and then run on batteries for a while - whatever is most efficient. I digress. All the energy does come from gas, but some braking energy is recovered in addition to that.

    IMHO I don't care if it's a hybrid, I want numbers. Cost (inc maint), and fuel economy, performance.

  • by dgb2n (85206) <dgb2n@@@comcast...net> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @10:17PM (#17372880)
    If you lump in the distillate fuel oil (which includes diesel fuel), the number climbs to 66%.

    It would be interesting to find out if the breakdown simply reflects the refining process and its byproducts or whether the consumption breakdown can be skewed to gasoline over the other uses reflected in the California study.
  • by cloudmaster (10662) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:45AM (#17373966) Homepage Journal
    Sorry, I don't have "funny" mod points to apply to this. :)

    Just in case you seriously didn't know, though, the displacement is the difference in volume of the cylinder with the piston at top dead center and bottom dead center. That's a space filled with air (and atomized fuel, ideally), and the air is *displaced* by the piston moving through the cylinder. You change displacement one of two ways - change stroke length or change bore diameter. In other words, either the cylinder of air being displaced gets taller or gets wider. Oil's got nothing to do with it.

    The compression ratio, while we're on topic, is the ratio of the total cylinder volume (including the combustion chamber in the head) with the piston at BDC (uncompressed) and TDC (compressed). In a piston engine with zero deck height (pistons are level with the top of the block at TDC) and flat-top pistons, compression ratio is 1 + ((displacement / number of cylinders) / combustion chamber volume). Make sure you keep track of those units (hint, 1L=1000cc, a small block Chevy will usually have either 65cc or 72cc combustion chambers, and a zero deck 5.7L V8 engine will be running around 10.5 or 11:1 compression). :)
  • Huh? Ethanol has even less power per gallon than gas. Diesel on the other hand has MORE power per gallon (aka BTUs) than gasoline! Diesel engines are also run without a throttle so there's no pumping loss and because they are cmopression ignition with a very stable fuel they can run higher cylinder pressures - hence massive turbocharging going on :-) The exhaust gasses are also cooler on a diesel so they can use nifty VNT turbos to get boost earlier. I want to see a diesel hybrid myself, that woudl rock. For now I'll daily my TDI and be happy with near hybrid MPG figures...

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