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Old 12-12-2006, 06:30 PM   #1
KILLER74Z28
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Tougher EPA '08 mileage estimates are issued

Tougher EPA '08 mileage estimates are issued
Efficiency to fall by 8%-12%

December 12, 2006

BY JUSTIN HYDE

FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF

The fuel economy estimates plastered on the windows of new cars and trucks will fall by about 2 to 4 miles per gallon on average under new rules unveiled Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA's new standards, first proposed in January, are designed to make fuel economy estimates more accurate. The old mileage tests were last updated in 1985 and had been the source of growing complaints of over-optimistic projections for fuel efficiency.

Environmentalists hailed the changes as an improvement for consumers seeking more fuel-efficient vehicles. While car buyers shifted toward less fuel-thirsty cars and trucks during the summer run-up in gasoline prices, analysts say demand for better fuel economy has eased as gas prices have fallen.

In its final rule, the EPA said city miles-per-gallon estimates for most vehicles will drop by about 12%, while highway estimates will take an 8% average cut. The change will vary widely by model and be more severe for hybrid vehicles, which will see an average reduction of 22% for city fuel economy and 13% for highway driving. The EPA said new cars and trucks in 2006 averaged 18.6 m.p.g. in the city and 24.9 m.p.g. on highways.

The two tests used in the old system basically simulated a leisurely drive that never topped 60 m.p.h. in 75-degree weather. The three new tests include cold starts at 20 degrees, running the engine with air conditioning in 95-degree heat, and harder acceleration up to 80 m.p.h.

The changes, including a redesigned label, will go into effect for 2008 models that go on sale next year. That could cause some consternation among consumers and dealers, since 2007 models will have higher fuel economy numbers than newer versions of the same vehicle and competitors' models.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which supported the changes, said it has launched a new Web site at www.mileagewillvary.com to explain the differences between the old and new ratings. It also said it emphasizes that fuel economy numbers can only be compared within the same model year.

Because the new tests and a revised formula affect each model differently, the magnitude of the reduction varies by automaker. The EPA estimates that General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG will see their average city mileages fall 10% and their highway mileage fall 11%; Toyota Motor Corp's. average city estimates will decline about 11%, but its highway estimates will only fall 7%.

GM has used the EPA ratings as an environmental standard, claiming throughout this year that it offered more models averaging at least 30 m.p.g. on the highway than any other automaker. GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company "expects to retain that claim."

The EPA rejected a request from some groups to include information about ethanol-based fuels on the redesigned label. But the EPA said it would consider over the next year whether it can mandate mileage information about E85 -- a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline -- on window labels, and said it left part of the new label blank for automakers to supply such information on their own.

Falling numbers
EPA projections for the reduction in mileage estimates under its new system, by automaker:City Highway
  • General Motors10% 11%
  • Ford12% 10%
  • DaimlerChrysler10% 11%
  • Toyota11% 7%
  • Honda13% 7%
  • Nissan11% 7%
  • Hyundai13% 8%
  • Average12% 8%

Contact JUSTIN HYDE at 202-906-8204 or jhyde@freepress.com.
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