The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will update its fuel economy testing procedure (see our post about the Union of Concerned Scientists' position on the issue) before the end of this year and the new standards could go into effect in two years. The goal is to get results (the miles per gallon (mpg) stickers that you see in the windows of cars in dealers lot and on automakers' websites) that are closer to what drivers can expect to see in the real world. The current tests were created in 1977 and since then a lot has changed: "things such as speed limits, a lot more cars with air conditioning and other equipment, people do a little bit more stop-and-go and probably accelerate more than assumptions [and there is also a lot more idling]," said Stephen L. Johnson, EPA Administrator.
David Champion, director of automobile testing at Consumer Reports, said the EPA's numbers can differ from actual mileage by 50 percent and sometimes more. He also said automakers have learned how to optimize their vehicles to do well in EPA tests.
The EPA does not test vehicles for fuel economy. Instead, it issues guidelines that automakers use to test their own vehicles. Agency officials said the EPA audits 10 percent of the tested vehicles for accuracy. [...]
The Ann Arbor lab was established in 1971. It employs about 400 people, mostly scientists and engineers. Besides the fuel economy estimates, the labs establish national pollution emissions standards for cars and trucks.
Johnson said the EPA intends to propose the new testing rules by the end of the year.
The proposal would be subject to a 90-day public comment period before it took effect.
The most important question that we want to ask the EPA and the US government is: "Since the new EPA testing procedures will give more realistic, thus worse, results, will the automakers have to create more efficient vehicles to follow the law or will the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards be softened to keep the status quo?"