Who Is Afraid of EPA?

EPA Refines Guidelines for Fuel-Economy Testing

What Is The Problem?

The last couple of years were the most turbulent ones for car manufacturers. It looks like everyone is lying about the fuel consumption and that EPA caught only a few of the companies. It looks like EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is finally going to look into this problem appropriately. The inspection is going to be more thorough and it is going to include a larger number of cars, starting from the 2017 models.

Solution?

Car manufacturers started the cooperation with EPA in 2011, by supplying them with a number of vehicles requested. EPA’s task was to determine whether or not, the company’s tests were true or manipulated with. Those tests are conducted in controllable low wind conditions, and the results depend on a number of variables, such are the aerodynamic drag, tire rolling resistance and driveline friction.

That test is called Coast Down test. That test has all eyes and ears pointed to it by EPA as the most relevant test.

Coastdown-test-track

“Coast down is one of the most frequent tests for motor vehicles and consists in vehicle launch from a certain speed with the engine ungeared, simultaneously recording the speed and traveled distance until the vehicle stops. This can be done for different reasons, mainly targeting to obtain valuable information about the general condition of the vehicle and about its interaction with the environment.” – (COAST DOWN TEST – THEORETICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH – Research Paper; Ion Preda, Dinu Covaciu, Gheorghe Ciolan; Transilvania University of Brasov, Romania)

It is used to calibrate the Dynamometer, which is a device for measuring power, force and torque, produced by an engine or a motor.

How Did They Make Us Look Like Fools?

That data is used to determine the overall fuel consumption of a vehicle and there are numbers of ways one company can fool the system. Some companies took off three out of four brakes in order to lower the friction during the test, others kept the car running extensively prior the test, just to warm all the joints and driveline bearings. Those small changes had some serious influence on the final results and are responsible for the over inflated fuel consumption results. Some of the cheating companies are Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Mitsubishi.

Every single company that got caught has some serious problem with their customers. The sales are down and they are at the beginning of their problems because they have to find a way to bring the customers back. And that is going to be a very hard and long process, especially if some of those customers get them to court. Unless someone figures out how to wipe a memory, MIB style.

EPA Checks Only 10%

EPA began checking 10 percent of all the new vehicles in 2011 and that has been proven as a smart move but insufficient one because nobody knows how many frauds are left undiscovered, and how many companies actually managed to lie to us all.

Starting with the 2017 production year, all the manufacturers must comply with EPA and provide them with very detailed description of their testing methods. They must define the exact procedures that are used when determining their road-load dynamometer calibration settings. EPA has also determined the exact minimum for tire’s accumulated miles and test ground surface composition and texture.

For now, if EPA discovers some deviations in road-load energy loss which goes over 10 percent in city driving and 7 percent in highway driving, it will result in the correction of the mpg values on the window sticker. All the inspections were increased to the 20 percent in recent time, but even that is not enough. EPA is going to rise the number of inspected vehicles in years to come.

The main reason for the EPA’s disability to check all of the vehicles is really a simple one. It doesn’t have the right number of people working for them and the resources are pretty scarce. But judging by their optimistic future predictions, the government is making some moves towards the better funding and is actually trying to help the EPA get everything straight once again.

New CAFE Requirements

On the top of all, the NHTSA has just announced that they are doubling the fines for not meeting the fuel economy targets. The plan is to get the fuel consumption to 54 mpg until 2025. And most of the car manufacturers find that time window as a very narrow one and a very difficult goal to achieve. Especially in a time when those companies already have their plans for the next decade. Considering the fines, I think they will comply. But that will reflect on the prices of new vehicles, because of the fines. If those new CAFE regulations are true, the industry has to change every car into a hybrid or a fully electric one.

Only time will show.