Hybrids Lose Fuel Economy with New Testing

February 23rd, 2007 4:57 PM

     New fuel-economy ratings that will take effect in 2008 will lower miles per gallon estimates for certain hybrid cars by 10 to 20 percent, according to USA Today.

     “Toyota’s Prius, best-known and best-selling gas-electric car in the USA, drops to 48 miles per gallon in the city under the ’08 testing procedure, from a 60 mpg rating under the current system – a 20% decline. Its highway mileage rating falls about 12%, to 45 mpg,” USA Today reported on its front page February 23.

     The changes stem from the new testing that includes higher speeds, faster acceleration, more extreme temperatures and the use of air conditioning. Motorists can compare the old and new fuel economy of vehicles at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/.

     “The change is good news for hybrid owners. It’s great that consumers will have a better sense of what they may expect on the road,” Bradley Berman of HybridCars.com told USA Today.

     But it’s not such good news for most journalists, who have sung the praises of hybrid cars for years.

     “I’d like an SUV that gets 50 miles to the gallon. Why can’t we do that? We sent a man to the moon,” asked CNN co-anchor Miles O’Brien on March 30, 2006.

     CNN’s Andy Serwer responded, “Buy a hybrid.”

     “Today” on NBC ran a segment called the “Great American Gas Challenge” in May 2005 that sounded more like a hybrid commercial than the news. Katie Couric asked each of the families in the segment for their opinions on hybrid cars, including if they would purchase one.

     Neither that segment nor another by NBC reporter Carl Quintanilla included any problems with hybrid automobiles, such as the software glitches in the Toyota Prius that were reported by The Wall Street Journal and CNN.com.

     And the very same day USA Today reported the new measurements of hybrid fuel economy, CNN.com ironically reported that green cars are “finally credible” in the United States and mentioned the high fuel economy of hybrids without mentioning the ’08 changes.