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Power Announcements United States Science

Hybrids Beware? EPA Revises Mileage Standards 550

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 toadlife ( 301863 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:15PM (#17370154) Journal
    I have Hyundai Sonata and the mileage quoted on the sticker at the lot is *exactly* what I've gotten. Aside from the hybrid variety, are certain cars more likely to get lower mileage than the EPA estimate?
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:29PM (#17370278) Journal
    Why do so many folks go nutty over proving that hybrids are the greatest thing ever or the stupidest thing ever?
    For some people, hybrids are the environmentally smug way to show off how big your penis is.

    Despite all the data saying that hybrids do not create a net energy savings, a lot of people treat 'em as an eco-conscious status symbol.

    The energy that goes into building a car outstrips, by far, the amount of gasoline you're going to burn during the 'normal' service life. If you want to do the world a favor, buy an old beater & drive that. Even with all the crap its pre-catalytic converter setup will spew out, you'll still do less net harm than the building of a new car.
  • by Cylix ( 55374 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:30PM (#17370294) Homepage Journal
    I thought MythBusters covered this one.

    The final thoughts were that no modern air conditioning system should vastly impact gas mileage.

    They even tested it on some SUV and came out with very similar gas mileage. (Windows down actually caused slightly more loss).

    I'm sure someone will chime in here and clear this up a bit. I was just a bit confused when the article claimed air conditioning was a gas hog. (Note, on an older car I had when I kicked in the AC I really did feel the engine jump to compensate, but this was ages ago.)
  • won't change my car (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mountain_Man87 ( 253499 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:32PM (#17370314) Homepage Journal
    My little 93 Geo Metro XFi would still get pretty much the same mileage as the old EPA ratings 51/58. I currently get 57 MPG driving it like a nut. There are a few metros on the road getting 70+mpg on the road right now.
  • Re:GOOD. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:46PM (#17370452)
    Typical drive train loss is 15-30% depending on the configuration. Smaller front wheel drive 5 speeds have less drive train loss then a rear wheel big v8 automatic with OD. I've found some comparisons with Google in the past when I was reseaching figures for my own car and setup. I have 450 rear wheel HP as indicated by various dyno runs and was trying to estimate engine HP.

    Even more important then the markeeting driven "HP rating" should be a simple graph showing a dyno run with peak torque and HP noted. Oh, the graph might confuse consumers! Well we are even more let down, fooled, and confused by the peak HP claim that companies use now.

    One of my compact cars is rated at 140HP. My mini van that weighs at least 1500lbs more is rated at 165HP. My van will blow that car off of the road even while pulling a 1000lb trailer. The peak HP are almost meaningless. Torque is more important for determining real world output and neither alone are as informative as looking at a dyno run sheet would be. Hell, I guess you could skip the dyno chart and include a 60ft, 1/8 mile and 1/4 time with the trap speed.
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:53PM (#17370554) Journal
    http://money.cnn.com/2006/12/26/news/companies/gm_ fuel.reut/index.htm?cnn=yes [cnn.com]

    Personnaly I am sort of happy to see GM get thier lunch eaten. They've been asleep at the switch for too many years.

    Here an interesting article as well. http://www.cnn.com/2006/BUSINESS/12/22/toyota.reut /index.html [cnn.com]

    A choice quoute from the head of Toyota: '"The important thing is to be a leader in car-making, and that's done by improving products," he told a year-end news conference, adding that vehicle quality will be Toyota's top priority at a time of rising vehicle recalls.'

    An American manager would have spoken some crap about "leveraging synergys for value added customer delight", in other words not admitting to a problem and just engaging in window dressing. American management seems to have lost thier way, focusing on image without addressing fundamentals.
  • by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @05:54PM (#17370566)
    The smaller the motor, the more effect that it will have. If you drive a Honda Civic, you're better off with the windows down. If you drive a Toyota Camry, you're better off with the windows up. Mythbusters is only about 75% credible.

    I did these tests on my own, recording engine load, fuel flow, AC during idling, and AC during driving. The AC can be VERY taxing.
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:09PM (#17370728)
    5 Passengers and a load as well...

    http://phoenixmotorcars.com/models/fleet.html [phoenixmotorcars.com]

    An electric vehicle has almost no parts which require servicing; no valves, no spark plugs, no oil to change, no air filter, no piston rings. Basically it'll last as long as the chassis is structurally sound and the bodywork remains reasonable. The only bits which'll wear out are the consumables, the battery and bearings. With a battery which can last for 20 years, there's no real reason the vehicle shouldn't do a million miles with bugger all servicing.

    The battery:

    "In addition to high power the Altairnano NanoSafe
    batteries deliver:
      Long life - potentially up to 20+ year life
      Very fast charge - rechargeable in minutes
      Extremely wide operating temperature range
    from -50C/-60F to +75C/165F
      Inherent safety - no risk of thermal runaway"

  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:38PM (#17370974)

    "I think another point of hybrids is for commuters in stop & go traffic. Less wear and tear on the transmission."

    There is a real risk with a Prius -- pedestrians do NOT look when they don't hear you coming.
    It is very, very common for people to step right in front of a Prius because it is so quiet.

    Seen this myself, driving a rental, and riding with friends.
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JakiChan ( 141719 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:45PM (#17371034)

    Blame your favorite money-losing American car company, and its support for and from Big Oil, for the lack of diesel options in US cars.
    I don't know what the deal with the car companies is, but yeah I do blame the US oil companies for not giving us ULSD until recently. Now that we have it, though, I hope to see nice and advanced diesel engines from the European car companies to show us stupid American'ts what modern diesel is like.
  • by tygt ( 792974 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:46PM (#17371052)
    My '96 Chevy Impala SS hit its estimates right on the head - 20/26 isn't bad at all for a corvette-powered 4-door.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:50PM (#17371090) Journal

    ...is something like a Nielsen rating for mileage. Pay some people to put a black box in their car that records the mileage. For new models, you just publish the EPA "laboratory" mileage. For cars with a year or more of real-world driving, they could post "actual" mileage. One big problem however, is that you might not be able to get enough people to sign up. You need enough people to sort out the lemons (although if mileage lemons are produced, that's important to know).

    Kudos to the EPA for taking this a step closer to the real world.

    Now, it wouldn't carry the same weight as a controlled data-gathering or testing effort, but is anybody aware of a mileage website, where people just enter their mileage for various makes and models? Sounds like something GasBuddy could add as a feature.

  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:58PM (#17371844) Journal
    My 83 merc is the same. You can even tow start the car if you had to. It's winter so I'm on petro diesel, but come summer I'll be burning veggie oil.
    I'd love to see a diesel electric hybrid, that would be awesome.

    Side note about alternative fuel energy gains*:
    Ethanol from corn: 25%
    Biodiesel from soybeans: 93%
    Source: Science News, July 15 2006, vol 170 pg 36-37 "Farm-Fuel Feedback"

    *energy provided vs energy to produce. Also, corn takes tons more fertalizer and other crap to grow, it's a crap energy source. We need to lift the tarrifs on Brazillian ethanol, made from sugarcane it's way cheaper than corn based fuel.
  • by jlanthripp ( 244362 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:03PM (#17371892) Journal
    Dual drive axles, power steering, Bendix ABS, 80,000 pound GVWR. 6.9 miles per gallon average on #2 diesel. Pulling loads that average about 34,000 pounds (averaged over the 300,000 miles that are on it - some loads have weighed 45,500 pounds, sometimes I have to pull an empty trailer over 450 miles to get a load).

    Want to improve the average fuel economy of a hybrid? Put 10 of them on a trailer and pull it with an International (or Freightliner, or Peterbilt, or Kenworth, etc.)
  • Re:Not sweating it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:47PM (#17372250) Homepage
    I think a better metric is how much total fuel is used per driver. For example, I used to work 26 miles from home but drove a more efficient vehicle. I've since changed jobs but now drive a less efficient vehicle. However, the total fuel I use is much less. I.e., before I used about $60/week on gas, now it's $40/2 weeks on average. I don't drive an SUV, but I still don't escape people telling me that my average MPG is OHMYGOD, under 20. I'm not saying there should be rations, but I get a little upset when some joker with a relatively fuel efficient vehicle gives me guff because my car is not so efficient.
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:08PM (#17372422)
    Kind of surprised to see soybeans doing so well. Soybeans also take quite a bit of fertilizer and various pesticides.
    The best plant for energy, both alcohol and biodiesel as well as plastic, and one hell of a lot of other useful things is hemp.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:23PM (#17372548) Homepage Journal
    MPG ratings are notoriously inaccurate because it's a single figure derived from an unscientific selection of conditions that an unscientific selection of cars is exposed to, with all other variables and parameters extrapolated and/or ignored.

    It would seem much more logical to expose a truly random selection of cars to exhaustive tests over a wider range of conditions for longer periods of time. Instead of averaging, you plot against a distribution and take the average of the distribution. This, however, is not the quoted figure for any car. It's merely the baseline for that model. Each car has to have some nominal testing - at least to see if the engine will start. Assuming that the distribution will be the same with merely the offsets being different, you then derive the effective MPG from the distribution and where that specific car is believed to be on it.

    You now have an MPG per car, but it's still a single value and single values are useless. I'd therefore do the above with nine distributions, not one. One for 0-25 mph, one for 25-50, one for 50-75, and each of those for smooth traffic flow, heavy traffic and stop/go traffic.

    Consumers tend to drown out lots of stats, though, and nine numbers - trivial to any geek - would be murderous on your average couch potato. On the other hand, colours tend to be workable. Simply do a rainbow spectrum, where violet is so far above average that driving round the planet uses less fuel than a typical hummvee uses to get out the parking lot, and where red is where you're escorted to the grocery store by an oil tanker. Nice and visual, though with hard data for those who actually want hard data to work with.

  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['eve' in gap]> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:27PM (#17372586) Homepage

    Or have someone walk ahead waving a lantern.

    Seriously, it amazes me how totally blithe people are around cars. Any car that's able to hit me in the next 60 seconds makes me nervous, and I, you know, pay attention to it. Same anywhere there might be a car, like a road, until I verify there is not, in fact, a car there. I practice defensive not-being-hit-by-a-car.

    And I drive my somewhat noisy car literally up people's asses in parking lots and they don't only not get out of the way, which is common courtesy, they don't even look at me. I'm not going to run them over, but how do they know I'm not some idiot chatting on a cellphone, looking through my shopping bags, and taking care of a baby at the same time? I've slowly less-than-idled behind people strolling along for fifty feet without them looking at me. Unless they have some damn magical ears, or mirrored sunglasses, that can tell how close an unknown car is behind them without looking, they were risking their lives, or at least their legs, with the assumption that I wasn't slowly idling straight into them.

    I once had someone almost hit my car with their car by them turning too sharply to the left at a stop sign with my car parked behind the line. And they had just looked at me to see who got to go first. We got there at the same time, they were to the right, they went first while talking on a cell phone, they managed to stop less than a foot from my front bumper. (1) They had to back up to go around me, although at least they had the decency to look embarrassed at it.

    If people sometimes don't see a damn car exactly where a car is supposed to be and they know it to be, I don't know why people would expect them always to see tiny people walking up the middle of the lane in a parking lot at Target. I personally try not to stick out more than a foot past the parked cars.

    1) While I had one of those 'Oh, shit, they are going to hit me, how fast can I hit reverse? Foot already on brake, grab shift knob, push button, don't go too far that's park, too late they're here!' moments. And, somewhere in the middle of that, I was mildly relieved that this was clearly their fault, and considering letting them hit because the headlight area of my car was messed up from a previous crash and this would pay to fix it. It's amazing how much you can think in two seconds, although you cannot, for future reference, actually shift into reverse and back up fast enough to avoid a car five feet away.

  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yabos ( 719499 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:29PM (#17372608)
    Yeah, hemp is like the magic plant. It's so versatile but it's just buried by the ignorant government and probably lobbied against by the oil industry. You could literally replace a lot of the plastics and gasoline with hemp fibre or oil based products. And the best thing is it grows like a weed anyways so it doesn't take a lot of maintenance.
  • Re:Beware of what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mr. Mindless ( 259403 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:34PM (#17372630)
    Ostensibly, the reason for this would seem to be that they don't want to deal with our retarded emissions standards.

    Fixed it for you. No distinction in standards between fuel types is plain stupid, and it's killing the most economical & efficient car option in this country.
  • by Tancred ( 3904 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @10:22PM (#17372912)
    I don't think the current crop of "hybrids" really deserve the term. They have a single energy source and a second storage medium they use internally. Some people modify their hybrids to allow them to be electrically charged, which is great. I haven't heard a good reason not to include this on every hybrid. Think that would be just as inefficient? Check out this report from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: http://www.pnl.gov/news/release.asp?id=204 [pnl.gov]

    If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. A new study for the Department of Energy finds that "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84 percent of the country's 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

    Of course, lots of very powerful people will fight that tooth and nail.
  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['eve' in gap]> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @10:23PM (#17372916) Homepage

    Forget hybrids. The entire model is screwy.

    We need electric cars combined with mass transit. No one should ever have to drive more than 40 or so miles to the nearest town or bus/rail terminal.

    Seriously, the entire model needs changing. Something like 3/4 of my travel is 8 miles to the nearest town. I could do fine with an electric car, even one that only went 40 mph. The rest of my travel is 40+ miles towards 'the big city', aka, Atlanta, down an incredibly common corridor, GA-400, with no mass transit at all until the end.

    People in Europe get by fine without cars. We can't entirely do the same, because we're more spread out, but electric cars should remedy that.

    With correctly planned mass transit of light rail and small bus routes, and electric cars with a range of 100 miles (and parking structures with the ability to recharge them), we could cover something like 95% of the transportation needs in this country.(1) As for the rest, well, you rent a car, or have a group of people who own one and trade it around. (Like my extended family does with the truck. You need a truck, you borrow it.) Or, hell, you just own one, it's not like it wastes energy to have a car just sit there, and the current cars aren't going anywhere.

    But, anyway, we should slowly consider phasing that in, and there are some things to think about:

    For example, we'd need shopping cart-like things that we can take on the bus and train, to remove one of the major problems. It would be really nice if they were standardized little rental things, and obviously buses need to be designed to accommodate them. (With the added bonus of them accommodating people in wheelchairs.)

    Oh, and we'd sometimes need some sort of electric car rental place at the end. Which is why we need to gradually phase this in, so we can figure if it makes sense to have, say, a bus route, a taxi service, and/or a car rental place in a certain specific small town.

    However, the start of this plan: Buses in major cities, we mostly already have, and light rail down major corridors, we mostly somewhat have, we just need to finish and the rest sorta springs from there. First you get a shuttle bus to take people to the light-rail from nearby cities, then bus routes around those cities, etc, and then we have to start saying 'I want a electric-only car that gets much better energy mileage than my hybrid, because it's not hauling around an ICE. I don't care my range is only 100 miles, I don't drive that far anyway.'

    But, as most importantly, to get this plan off the ground, we have to make using mass transit cheaper than driving.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN