Real MPG - Putting the Truth in Your Tank
July 13, 2006

Real MPG - Putting the Truth in Your Tank: Moving Toward RealMPG

For more than a quarter century, federal law has required automakers to save oil by meeting mileage standards for their cars. This law grew out of concern over the United States' economic vulnerability to unstable foreign sources of oil. Congress acknowledged that one of the best ways to reduce this vulnerability is simply to use less oil. But as long as the mileage standards have been on the books, the automakers have evaded the spirit of the law by using a bogus driving test. The test allows automakers to claim that they are meeting federal mileage standards when in fact they are not. The losers in this scheme are citizens who must now pay $3.00 a gallon for gasoline to operate vehicles that deliver significantly less gas mileage than advertised. In addition, the U.S. is more dependent on foreign oil than ever before — in no small part because of the automakers' deliberate gas mileage deception.

It does not have to be this way. EPA has designed emissions tests that incorporate many of the real-world driving standards and uses them to measure automakers' compliance with pollution emissions standards. For example, EPA tests auto emissions using a cold weather city driving test known as Cold FTP in which fuel efficiency is about 12 percent lower than in the normal city test. EPA also measures car pollution using a test with the air conditioning on known as SC03 that produces fuel efficiency numbers that are about 21 percent lower than in the normal city test. And EPA runs a third test known as the US06 that incorporates rapid acceleration and high speed. Results from this test are about 30 percent lower than mileage results from a composite of the normal city and highway tests.

Acting on a petition by Bluewater Network, EPA recently announced that it plans to use these three tests to produce more accurate mileage stickers for consumers. But EPA has said that it will not use the tests to improve automakers' compliance with vehicles' fuel efficiency.


It's time for Congress to mandate one test for pollution, MPG compliance, and the sticker on the window in the showroom. Test methods similar to those found in Senate Bill 3543 would be a good start. It is outrageous that car companies have been allowed to deceive the American public for decades about the real MPG of their cars. Requiring a real driving test is not a substitute for enacting higher mileage standards for cars, but it is an essential step to making cars more efficient and to reducing dependence on foreign oil.