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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When it rains, it pours...
http://cbs.marketwatch.com/new...=mktw

Actual mileage may vary -- significantly
Buyers of hybrid cars discovering claims are overstated

By Chris Pummer, CBS MarketWatch
Last Update: 11:31 AM ET May 17, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Toyota and Honda have scored smashing successes with their hybrid cars, but now face a growing number of angry buyers who have found the cars' fuel efficiency falls short of advertised claims.
U.S. sales of gas-electric vehicles are soaring along with gasoline prices. Toyota Prius buyers are waiting four months or more for delivery in most markets, sales of Honda's hybrid Civic hit a record in April and Ford (F: news, chart, profile) is preparing for an onslaught of orders for the coming roll-out of its new hybrid Escape, the first SUV of its kind.
Initially popular with green-minded drivers for their low emissions and fuel efficiency, hybrids are now attracting buyers entirely for anticipated fuel savings. Trouble is, the disclaimer "actual mileage may vary" has never been truer than with these vehicles.
Under test-track conditions, Consumer Reports found the Prius and hybrid Civic's actual mileage performance is 20 to 25 percent lower than the Environmental Protection Agency's lab-tested results. In fact, the two sedans fall as short of EPA claims as almost any vehicle Consumer Reports has tested in decades.
"These vehicles are designed to do well on the EPA cycle," said David Champion, Consumer Reports senior director of automotive testing. "If you're looking at a hybrid just as a financial investment, it doesn't make sense."
Buyers star-struck by the stated fuel-efficiency ratings don't realize that, even at $2-a-gallon gas, it would take 12 years to recoup the cost of a hybrid Civic versus a similarly equipped gas-engine model, Champion said. Based on Consumer Reports results, the annual savings on a Civic hybrid versus a top-of-the-line Civic EX driven 15,000 miles a year is $200 at that pump price. But the hybrid costs about $2,400 more.
The 2004 Prius, touted on Toyota's Web site as Motor Trend's Car of the Year, produced 55 miles per gallon in combined city/ highway driving in the EPA tests. The hybrid Civic yielded 47.5 mpg. Consumer Reports found the Prius averaged 44 mpg overall and the Civic got 36 mpg -- about 11 mpg less than the EPA ratings.
In the case of the Civic, the hybrid version averaged just 7 mpg more overall than the gas-engine model, a disturbing discovery for cost-conscious buyers who could have purchased a base-model Civic for $6,000 less.
Getting an earful
Toyota (TM: news, chart, profile) and Honda (HMC: news, chart, profile) dealers and customer-service phone reps have been taking heat from some disgruntled buyers. Earlier buyers largely accepted the discrepancy with little complaint, in the knowledge they'd at least made an environmentally sound purchase. Many recent buyers, though, are steaming mad at the shortfall in fuel savings.
Adding insult to injury is the fact most buyers don't discover the shortcoming until after the "cooling-off" period -- a week or less in most states and non-existent in others -- when they can return a newly purchased vehicle for a full refund. Since there is technically no defect, dealers can just point to the "actual mileage" disclaimer.
"We explain to everyone when they buy the car that those EPA estimates are theoretical," said David Burrill, hybrid salesman for Toyota of Berkeley in California. "We never set anyone's expectations that they'll get 55 mpg."
Before buyers drive off with their new vehicle, "we take people out to teach them how to drive it efficiently," Burrill said. "During the first week or so, they may get 42 or 43 mpg, but after that, customers tell us they're getting 48 or 49."
A suspect messenger
Through decades of testing, Consumer Reports has found fuel efficiency universally registers 5 to 20 percent less than EPA estimates. The Prius came up 20 percent short in combined city/highway driving and the Civic, 25 percent.
The EPA's 19-year-old testing method runs vehicles in a lab setting in a stationary position on rollers. To gauge highway mileage, vehicles are run at an extremely efficient 47 miles per hour, based on the old federal-highway speed limit of 55 mph.
Additionally, the vehicles face no wind resistance and are run without air-conditioning, which drains more fuel on four-cylinder engines on a percentage basis than on larger engines. The EPA also estimates fuel efficiency by weighing exhaust emissions, which are virtually non-existent when hybrids are in electric-engine mode.
Critics say the EPA tests overstate results in deference to automakers, which for years successfully fought any increase in federally mandated "fleet" mileage ratings on their vehicle line-ups. Instead of using ever-advancing technology to build more fuel-efficient cars, they've built more high-horsepower engines to drive the higher-profit SUVs, minivans and V6 sedans they've marketed to U.S. consumers accustomed to cheap gasoline.
Reputations on the line
Toyota and Honda both built U.S. sales on a reputation for quality and reliability. Yet neither warns potential buyers in its advertising that the mileage claims are inflated.
Toyota promotes the Prius's "unheard of 55 estimated combined mpg" on its Web site. Honda promotes the hybrid Civic's ability to get "650 miles on a single tank of gas," but includes a footnote: "Based on 2004 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only."
But with retail gas prices at record highs, the orders keep pouring in. As Toyota notes in an advisory on its Web site, "If you are in the market for a new 2004 Prius, we appreciate your patience. There is currently a waiting list at many dealerships across the country. . . Toyota is making every effort to increase production to try and respond to the current high levels of demand."
Toyota corporate spokesman Mike Michaels said the automaker must by law advertise the EPA estimates, even though they reflect ideal driving conditions. For instance, he said, the Prius may get as little at 35 mpg overall in northern states during the winter because severe cold weather drains the efficiency of the electric engine's batteries.
"It is a challenge for us, because car manufacturers have no latitude on how we advertise fuel economy," Michaels said. "We and the customers are somewhat victims of circumstances that couldn't have been anticipated. We are really working hard to convey to customers to set their expectations at reasonable levels."
Honda spokesman Andy Boyd, after initially trumpeting a recent Detroit News road test that found the Civic narrowly outperformed the Prius, said Honda has made a point of not promoting only mileage ratings in its advertising.
"We've always positioned it as advanced technology, fuel economy and low emissions," Boyd said. Even at today's gas prices, he said, the most satisfied buyer would still be one who "sees reduced oil consumption as a political goal."
"There's no question there are customers who are dissatisfied" with their fuel-efficiency, Boyd said. "But we've surveyed our (hybrid Civic) customers and found that they're 95 percent satisfied, which is extremely high when benchmarked against other vehicles."
Toyota is advising dealers to instruct their salespeople to inform prospective buyers of the broader EPA mileage range listed in smaller print on the window sticker, Michaels said. "We're trying to get that word out to the sales force. The wise salesperson would definitely show (the potential range) to the customer."
The large print on the Prius' sticker lists 60mpg city/51 mpg highway versus a range of 51-to-69 mpg city/43-to-59 mpg highway in the small print. The hybrid Civic's large-print rates 47/48 mpg, but the EPA's declared range is 39-to-55 mpg city/40-to-56 mpg highway.
The bottom-end of those ranges are still higher than Consumer Reports findings.
The best available option
The unfortunate result of the hybrids' mileage shortcomings is that they may sour some buyers on a technology that represents the best available alternative to the internal-combustion engine, which has powered automobiles for more than a century and has long anchored the United States in the morass of the Middle East.
Among buyers drawn by their fuel efficiency, hybrids are proving especially popular as the commuter car in two-driver households where the second vehicle is a gas-consuming SUV or minivan.
"It's gonna take gas to reach at least $2.50 to $2.65 to make them (hybrids) viable for a return on investment within five years," said Max Martina, managing director of Truckee, Calif.-based Alternative Energy Institute. "But over the next three to five years, you're going to see tremendous advancement in this technology."
Consumer Reports' Champion notes that the midsize Prius is itself a remarkable advancement on the Honda Insight, a poorly received, tiny two-seater that was the first widely available hybrid to debut just four years ago.
"We're still in the early stages in terms of hybrid technology," Champion said. "They're learning more and more how to squeeze every morsel of energy out of a gallon of gas. As we move forward, I'm sure they're going to be more objective in terms of their fuel mileage claims."
Chris Pummer is an assistant managing editor for CBS MarketWatch in San Francisco.
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (MkIII)

Quote, originally posted by MkIII »

 
G

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (RogueTDI)

This fails to prove, however, that the market is just ripe for diesels to walk in and take over--not when lines like this are included:
Quote, originally posted by RogueTDI »
The best available option
The unfortunate result of the hybrids' mileage shortcomings is that they may sour some buyers on a technology that represents the best available alternative to the internal-combustion engine, which has powered automobiles for more than a century and has long anchored the United States in the morass of the Middle East.

The fact is that hybrids still dominate consumers' perceptions of what an economical car is today. If the diesel industry wants to change that, then they need to start getting out there and educating the consumers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (bgluckman)

You couldnt pay me to drive a hybrid. http://****************.com/smile/emthdown.gif
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (bgluckman)

This isn't news. EPA estimates are off for all cars, not just hybrids.
We've reached the point of humping a dead horse--anyone want
some lube?
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (RogueTDI)

Quote, originally posted by RogueTDI »
You couldnt pay me to drive a hybrid. http://****************.com/smile/emthdown.gif

How about a diesel hybrid?
Anyway, Consumer Reports got only 29mpg city with a Golf TDI manual, and 22mpg city with a Jetta TDI automatic, so it isn't just hybrids that come up short of their EPA estimates in their fuel economy testing.
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (RogueTDI)

Quote, originally posted by RogueTDI »

"These vehicles are designed to do well on the EPA cycle," said David Champion, Consumer Reports senior director of automotive testing.

Frankly, I think he ought to present some evidence to this effect. I have to imagine that every car company works to maximize their EPA estimated numbers. It's the standard, so of course you are going to maximize your results. However, accusing Toyota and Honda of designing hybrid vehicles purely to game the system is pretty rediculous.
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (vertigo)

Yeah, the EPA estimate is off on my S40.

I should only be getting 32mpg on the highway.
I'm actually getting 36+mpg driving it hard and fast fully loaded with more than a Prius could carry.
http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
Good thing I don't need to replace an expensive battery every seven years. Disposal fee must suck too due to the heavy metals.
 
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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (MORMIT)

Quote, originally posted by MORMIT »
Yeah, the EPA estimate is off on my S40.

I should only be getting 32mpg on the highway.
I'm actually getting 36+mpg driving it hard and fast fully loaded with more than a Prius could carry.
http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif

Dude...you're getting 36+ MPG in your S40? How? I barely get 23 MPG combined.
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (bgluckman)

Quote, originally posted by bgluckman »

Dude...you're getting 36+ MPG in your S40? How?

Sitting on a flat bed...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (vertigo)

Quote, originally posted by vertigo »
This isn't news. EPA estimates are off for all cars, not just hybrids.
We've reached the point of humping a dead horse--anyone want
some lube?

I have some lube if you need it.

I know this is just the same story, but I gotta keep the fire burnin!
At least it is a different perspective, with some potentially new useful included info as well.


Modified by RogueTDI at 8:36 PM 5-17-2004
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (UncleBens)

Quote, originally posted by UncleBens »

Sitting on a flat bed...


 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (tjl)

Quote, originally posted by tjl »

How about a diesel hybrid?
Anyway, Consumer Reports got only 29mpg city with a Golf TDI manual, and 22mpg city with a Jetta TDI automatic, so it isn't just hybrids that come up short of their EPA estimates in their fuel economy testing.

Diesel hybrid, perhaps sure. Im happy with the tried and true conventional drivetrain for now though.
I do agree the CR testing must be wacked - I dont buy the 29mpg from a manual tranny Golf TDI, even if it is a PD, and even if it is city driving. I CANNOT imagine what they did to get the mileage that low. I can drive my car like a race car (I do - full throttle, hard stops, sharp cornering, high highways speeds, etc) and still get almost 40mpg, sometimes more. Granted, slightly lighter Mk3, but hey.
Either way, the CR report isnt the first to note that hybrids dont get close to EPA estimates. Many hybrid owners have already complained, long before CR did its testing. My TDI (and most people's) however has virtually always gotten what the EPA claimed, or better, if I drive like a sane person at legal speeds.




Modified by RogueTDI at 8:35 PM 5-17-2004
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (RogueTDI)

My Passat TDI under normal conditions gets more or less the advertised fuel consumption. Sometimes even a bit better. (Normally 5.0 - 5.5 L/100 km, 43 - 47 mpg US for the Americans to understand it)
I have seen fuel consumption as high as 8 litres per 100 km (29 mpg US) ... by towing an unaerodynamic trailer with two motorcycles on it, total towed weight about 1500 lbs, and with the car itself crammed full of people and stuff, AND driving 120 km/h with this rig! Usually I don't drive like that with the trailer behind, at 110 km/h it uses 7 L/100 km with trailer, which is more normal.
I don't think a Prius would be even capable of doing that at all, never mind what its fuel consumption would be like if you tried ...


Modified by GoFaster at 9:16 PM 5-17-2004
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (GoFaster)

I have heared that it is actually illegal for toyota and honda to state otherwise. They are well aware of the fact but are powerless to do anything untill the epa is reformed...
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (MORMIT)

Quote, originally posted by MORMIT »
Good thing I don't need to replace an expensive battery every seven years. Disposal fee must suck too due to the heavy metals.

As has been said many, many times, NiMH batteries are totally non-toxic and are fully legal to dispose of in conventional landfills. Lead-acid, alkaline, lithium, and lithium-ion batteries all have special disposal methods. NiMH does not. Also, there is no evidence that they magically fail after 7 years. The Insight and Prius came out in 2000, so even the earliest examples are only 4 years old, but there are some owners with over 150,000 miles on their vehicles with the original battery packs. In fact it's been mentioned several times over that other than packs that were found to be defective upon delivery, no one seems to know of anyone having a pack die so far. That's a pretty good track record for the first generation of a brand new technology.
Coilpacks and window regulators have been around for many, many years and look at how many VW's have had those fail. Turbo's have been around for decades upon decades and can cost upwards of $1000 to have replaced at a dealer and plenty of 1.8T guys have had their turbos fail after 80-90k miles even with totally stock cars. Does that mean turbos are bad technology too because they fail after 90-100k miles? How about timing belts? They should be replaced every 60-90k miles with some dealers charging upwards of $600 to replace. Are timing belts bad technology too?
 

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Re: Yet MORE Hybrid Let Downs (VeeeDoubleU)

Quote, originally posted by VeeeDoubleU »
Didnt consumer reports also publish the TDi with "30 mpg",
I dont trust those suckers!!

As was posted above, the "city" rating from Consumer Reports was 22mpg for a Jetta TDI automatic and 29mpg for a Golf TDI 5-speed.
 
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