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Ford scrambles to explain hybrid MPG discrepancies while EPA mulls testing changes

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid front three-quarter view blue

Ford has been in some hot water lately concerning inflated fuel economy figures for its hybrids. While shortfalls aren’t uncommon for hybrid models from any manufacturer, Ford’s figures set a new record for fuel economy shortfalls in recent Consumer Reports testing – about 20 percent. At a Deutche Bank Global Industry Conference in Detroit, Ford’s product development chief, Raj Nair, laid out a much more comprehensive list of reasons why EPA ratings for hybrids frequently don’t match up with real-world figures.

As Nair explained, any number of seemingly insignificant factors can dramatically affect fuel consumption. For instance, hybrids will lose about 7 mpg when driven at 75 mph versus 65 mph. A change of 30 degrees in the outside temperature can lead to a drop of 5 mpg. A further 5 mpg gets knocked off if the vehicle has been driven less than 6,000 miles.

Naturally, how you drive will have a big impact on fuel economy for any car, but it seems that it might be an even bigger factor when it comes to hybrids. Nair said that they were working with the EPA in order to revise the testing procedure for hybrids. He didn’t say exactly what these changes might be, but it’s possible that we will be seeing a drop in mpg ratings for hybrids in the near future.

At the moment, the EPA’s testing only makes distinctions between gasoline vehicles, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, with hybrids being lumped in with gasoline vehicles. This could be the root of the problem, although there hasn’t yet been an official statement from the EPA. Ford’s own mpg figures fell short by 17 to 21 percent in Consumer Reports testing, and future ratings could reflect this.