Amid hybrid mpg rating controversy, Ford talks to EPA about fuel economy testing procedures

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid rear three quarter studio backgroundFord is talking to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about fuel economy ratings, Bloomberg reports, while the EPA is currently looking into claims that the carmaker’s Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid fall well short of their 47 mpg across-the-board ratings.

After Consumer Reports tested both cars, its average figures were 37 mpg (combined) for the Fusion Hybrid and 39 mpg for the C-Max Hybrid. Last week, the EPA said it would investigate the magazine’s data.

While Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s chief of operations for North and South America, said the carmaker would talk with the EPA to determine if changes to the fuel economy testing procedure are necessary, he also said the company is not lobbying for any specific changes at this time.

Blue Oval representatives also stand by the assertion, made in previous statements, that variations in driving style account for the mpg discrepancy.

“We’ve designed our hybrids to drive exactly the same as our other vehicles” by giving them more horsepower than Toyota’s Prius line of hybrid vehicles,” Raj Nair, Ford’s product development chief, said at a press event in Detroit. “It makes them more sensitive to spirited driving.”

Nair said fuel economy could drop by as much as 17 mpg, depending on how the cars are driven. The EPA has agreed with this in previous statements.

Last week Linc Wehrly, director of light-duty vehicle compliance at the EPA’s Ann Arbor, Michigan laboratory, told the Detroit News that “There’s absolutely no doubt: A hybrid is going to be far more variable than a conventional vehicle.”

Consumer Reports was not the only publication to have trouble getting the advertised mileage out of a Ford hybrid. Green Car Reports noted an average of 40 mpg on two separate drives of the C-Max Hybrid.

Both the Fusion and C-Max Hybrids are rated at 47 mpg in all three EPA categories (city, highway, combined). The cars also use the same powertrain: a 188 horsepower gasoline four-cylinder engine, electric motor, and 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.