Gap Between Theory and Reality?Consumer advocate par excellence Consumer Reports has recently published a piece on the difference between official EPA fuel economy numbers and real-world testing numbers for a variety of hybrids. Most models proved to perform a bit worse in CR's tests than in the EPA's, but the Ford C-MAX hybrid and Ford Fusion hybrid topped the list with gaps of 10 and 8 MPGs. Apparently this was enough to raise concerns at the EPA: "The Environmental Protection Agency said Saturday it will review claims that two new Ford Motor Co. vehicles aren't getting the advertised 47 miles per gallon."
People familiar with the recent Hyundai controversy might think that something similar took place at Ford, but that's not necessarily the case. Both the C-MAX and Fusion hybrids can reach pretty high speeds in pure EV mode (62 mph), and this can have a bigger effect on the tightly controlled EPA methodology than on real world driving, resulting in that MPG gap. That might not be a big relief to owners of these models who drive in the real world, but at least there's no evidence so far that Ford inflated MPG numbers intentionally.
Here's CR's video about the issue:
Ford says that its customers are happy with the hybrids, and that some even beat the EPA's numbers:
"Early C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg," Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said in an email. "This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions and other factors can cause mileage to vary."
We'll have to wait for the EPA to do its review to find out if this is just a result of the Ford hybrids staying in electric-only mode longer than others during the EPA test cycle, or if something else was going on. It might be the EPA's methodology that is at fault, lacking the flexibility to generate truly apples-to-apples numbers for vehicles with very different powertrains (not that it's an easy thing to do, mind you), or it could be Consumer Reports' testing that is particularly hard on Ford's latest hybrid technology for some reason.