According to USA Today, the Environmental Protection Agency is currently evaluating its current testing methods for all hybrid vehicles capable of operating at highway speeds under only electric power.

EPA Test Schedule For Conventional Automobiles...Testing for Electric and Plug-In Hybrids Varies Slightly

EPA Test Schedule For Conventional Automobiles...Testing for Electric and Plug-In Hybrids Varies Slightly

While the USA Today report calls these vehicles advanced hybrids (some so-called conventional hybrids are capable of covering short distances at highway speeds on only electricity), the real focus, at least for upcoming vehicles, will be on the plug-in hybrid segment.

Virtually all plug-in hybrids are capable of operating on the highway under electric-only power and the EPA seems to believe its method for testing these vehicles might be a bit skewed.  Apparently, Consumer Reports' review of the Fusion Hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid (not to be confused with the plug-in Energi versions) prompted the EPA into action.  Consumer Reports found that neither of the two Ford vehicles (both what we'd call conventional hybrids) lived up to their MPG claims.

Though the EPA doesn't specifically mention plug-in hybrids, it's to be assumed that if the ability to operate at highway speeds under electric-only power effects the ratings of "advanced hybrids," then testing methodology for plug-in vehicles will likely come under pressure, too.

As USA Today reports,  Chris Grundler, EPA director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, wants to be sure the EPA's procedures keep pace with evolving technology and driving habits.

Quoting Grundler:

"This is a different type of hybrid, and we need to understand it.  If you drive a hybrid the way you drive your Porsche, you are going to get less (gas mileage) than the national average."

The EPA's evaluation, which is sure to take months, if not years, could result in modification to rating on window stickers.

For the record, Ford officials told USA Today:

"We agree with the EPA that hybrid fuel-economy performance industry-wide can be more variable compared to conventional vehicles.  We are open to working with the agencies to further improve the process for generating fuel-economy labels."

As mentioned above, this re-evaluation by the EPA focuses on what we'd term conventional hybrids, but what the EPA calls a "different type of hybrid" and USA Today calls an "advanced" hybrid.  This re-evaluation has no direct tie to plug-in hybrids.  But if the dominoes start falling for hybrid ratings, then look for plug-in hybrids to be next in line.

via USA Today

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