Posts Tagged ‘EPA’

Erin SteppAAA analysis, test results reveal that drivers, not automakers, responsible for shortcomings

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ORLANDO, Fla. (June 17, 2015)  – A new AAA survey reveals that one-in-three Americans do not believe the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new vehicle window sticker accurately reflects the fuel economy they achieve when driving. To assess the accuracy of this perception, AAA performed an analysis of data collected on the EPA’s FuelEconomy.gov website, along with laboratory and real-world vehicle testing, and found that driver behaviors and environmental conditions, rather than vehicle shortcomings, are likely responsible for most fuel economy variances.

“For years, we’ve heard that drivers question whether the fuel economy rating for their vehicle is accurate,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director, Automotive Engineering and Repair. “In the interest of our members, AAA aimed to address this issue with a multi-phase testing series designed to uncover the real reasons behind fuel economy variations.”

AAA engineers conducted a comprehensive analysis of 37,000 records submitted to the EPA, representing over 8,400 vehicle make, model and year combinations, to identify trends in real-world fuel economy.  Surprisingly, among the self-reported data, eight out of 10 drivers reported fuel economy that was higher than the combined city and highway EPA mileage rating for their vehicle. Additional findings include:

  • Owners of vehicles equipped with manual transmissions reported 17 percent higher fuel economy than EPA ratings.
  • Owners of diesel-fuel vehicles, including light trucks, reported 20 percent higher fuel economy than EPA ratings.
  • Truck owners with gasoline-fuel V-8 engines reported fuel economy five percent higher than EPA ratings, while owners of turbocharged V-6 engines reported fuel economy that was nine percent lower.
  • Owners of sedans with V-6 engines reported a nine percent higher fuel economy than EPA ratings, while owners of turbocharged four cylinder engines reported fuel economy that was four percent lower.
  • Minivan owners reported real-world fuel economy that was equal to or slightly lower than EPA ratings.

“The vast majority of drivers that submit their vehicle’s fuel economy to the EPA report mileage that beats the window sticker rating,” continued Nielsen. “Although self-reported data has limitations, it’s encouraging to see real-world fuel economy that more closely aligns with, or even exceeds, automaker promises.”

In conducting this analysis, AAA engineers identified a list of vehicles that were frequently reported as failing to achieve the EPA’s mileage rating. The majority of these vehicles, including the scrutinized Hyundai and Kia models, have since been retested and, in some cases, mileage ratings were revised.  AAA selected three additional vehicles – a 2014 full-size pickup truck, a 2014 large sedan and a 2012 medium sedan – for further testing.

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested the vehicles independently to verify the fuel economy.  Over the course of several weeks, testing was conducted using a certified dynamometer and on the streets of Southern California.  Test results from of all three vehicles confirmed the EPA mileage rating was accurate, leaving AAA to conclude that driving behaviors, vehicle condition, driving environment and terrain are likely responsible for most deviations from EPA ratings that consumers experience.

“In addition to logging hundreds of miles in various driving environments, the research team put the vehicles through EPA-specified testing designed to mimic the real-world conditions, including city, highway and aggressive driving,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “The findings indicate that while vehicles tested are capable of achieving the EPA rating, a driver’s real-world mileage will vary based on driving style.”

In the next phase of AAA’s fuel economy testing series, to be released in late 2015, researchers will measure the impact that specific driving behaviors, such as acceleration rates and idle time, have on an individual driver’s fuel economy. In the meantime, AAA recommends that drivers take a closer look at their driving habits to understand the role they play in the fuel efficiency of their vehicle.

“If you drive aggressively, with heavy acceleration, hard braking and driving at higher speeds, your fuel economy is going to suffer,” continued Nielsen. “Driving just five miles-per-hour above 50 is like paying an additional 19 cents per gallon for gasoline.”

To learn more about AAA’s vehicle testing series, designed to educate and inform AAA members, the automotive industry and the general public, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com. For daily gas price information and fuel cost estimates for road trips, visit FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com. To find the cheapest gas prices near you, download the AAA Mobile app at AAA.com/mobile.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

EPA May Require Real-Life Fuel Economy Stats

July 16th, 2014 by Amanda Shapiro

Yolanda CadeAAA Statement from CEO Bob Darbelnet

ORLANDO, Fla., (July 16, 2014) – “AAA is encouraged by the recent Wall Street Journal report that the Environmental Protection Agency is considering a requirement that carmakers use on-the-road data to support their advertised mileage claims. While some automakers already do this, AAA believes all companies should use this sort of real-world test to validate the mileage numbers they calculate from laboratory tests and computer simulated estimates. For most Americans, a new vehicle is the second largest investment they will make and it’s imperative they have accurate information to inform their purchase. While reports show that many consumers actually experience better fuel economy than promised, it is important for the ratings to be as accurate as possible and not overstate real-world performance.  The EPA testing process was significantly improved in 2008 to better reflect real-world conditions, and AAA looks forward to again working with the Agency to identify opportunities and provide data to further improve the information for consumers.”

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Heather HunterNew study conducted by the AAA Automotive Research Center shows electric vehicle driving range can be nearly 60 percent lower in extreme cold and 33 percent lower in extreme heat.

ORLANDO, Fla., (March 20, 2014) – Electric Vehicles (EVs) are energy efficient and environmentally-friendly with the added benefit of reducing fuel costs for motorists. But, just as motorists need to know how far the gas in their tank will take them, EV drivers need to be aware of how far their vehicle can travel on a single charge. According to new AAA research conducted with the AAA Automotive Research Center in Southern California, electric vehicle range can be reduced by an average of 57 percent based on the temperature outside.

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“Electric motors provide smooth operation, strong acceleration, require less maintenance than internal combustion engines, and for many motorists offer a cost effective option,” said John Nielsen, managing director, AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, EV drivers need to carefully monitor driving range in hot and cold weather.”

To better understand the impact of climate on electric vehicle batteries, AAA conducted a simulation to measure the driving range of three fully-electric vehicles in cold, moderate and hot weather. Temperature made a big difference in driving range for all three EVs.

Vehicles were tested for city driving to mimic stop-and-go traffic, and to better compare with EPA ratings listed on the window sticker. The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75°F, but dropped 57 percent to 43 miles when the temperature was held steady at 20°F. Warm temperatures were less stressful on battery range, but still delivered a lower average of 69 miles per full charge at 95°F.

AAA performed testing between December 2013 and January 2014. Each vehicle completed a driving cycle for moderate, hot and cold climates following standard EPA-DOE test procedures. The vehicles were fully charged and then “driven” on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully exhausted.

AAA has initiated several projects including mobile recharging units and EV charging stations to support members who drive electric vehicles. EVs provide owners with many benefits, but every motorist needs to be aware of conditions that can impact vehicle driving range. EV drivers need to plan carefully in hot and cold weather. Mapping tools such as the AAA TripTik® Travel Planner pinpoint charging stations to keep motorists on the go.

Additional information regarding AAA’s electric vehicle testing is available on the AAA NewsRoom.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Statement by Bob Darbelnet, President and CEO of AAA

November 15th, 2013 by Amanda Shapiro

Michael Green

(WASHINGTON, November 15, 2013) “The EPA’s proposal to decrease ethanol requirements will help drivers by preventing a surge in gas prices or the premature expansion of E15 gasoline sales. While we would like to increase the use of alternative fuels, it is a plain fact that the Renewable Fuels Standard’s original targets are unreachable without putting motorists and their vehicles at risk.

“The EPA has finally put consumers first. Their proposal will support the continued development of alternative fuels, while also recognizing the needs of the millions of people that drive every day. Today’s proposal is an important step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. Suggesting a range for 2014 targets does not guarantee that motorists will be protected from the risk of higher ethanol blends. We encourage the EPA to act quickly to finalize specific targets that help protect drivers nationwide.

“The vast majority of cars on the roads today are not designed to run on gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol. While ethanol has the potential to support the economy and reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, it is irresponsible to mandate more ethanol than cars can safely use.”

More than 90 percent of the vehicles on the road today are not approved by manufacturers to use E15, including most 2001-2013 models. E15 is only approved for use by automakers in flex-fuel engines, 2001 and newer Porsches, and selected 2012 and newer vehicles where it is clearly specified in the owner’s manual. While new models increasingly can use E15 gasoline, previous makes and models were never designed to use the fuel. It will still take at least another decade before the bulk of the fleet will be E15 compatible given that the average vehicle remains in use for more than 11 years.

 

Michael Green Contact TileBob Darbelnet Will Testify Regarding E15 Gasoline to Congressional Subcommittee

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 23, 2013) – AAA President & CEO Bob Darbelnet will testify today to a Congressional subcommittee that the EPA should consider whether target volumes to the Renewable Fuels Standard can be met without putting consumers at risk.

“I would urge Congress to keep American consumers front of mind when reviewing the RFS requirements for 2014,” continued Darbelnet.  “If the only way to meet the RFS requirement is to introduce E15 gasoline before consumers are educated and consensus is reached on which vehicles can safely use the fuel, then the RFS should be modified.”

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power is conducting the hearing to examine the Renewable Fuels Standard, a program created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to establish a renewable fuel volume mandate. AAA has urged regulators and the industry to stop the sale of E15 gasoline until motorists are better protected due to the strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.

“The number of states where E15 is sold has doubled in recent months despite continuing evidence that drivers are not aware of the fuel and could be unknowingly putting their cars in jeopardy,” continued Darbelnet. “AAA is not opposed to either ethanol or the RFS, but we remain very concerned with the way that E15 has been brought to market and is being sold to consumers.”

The subcommittee hearing is scheduled for July 23 at 10:00 AM in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

AAA believes that ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to provide motorists a clear choice at the pump that supports jobs, promotes energy independence and reduces fuel costs.  Both E10 and E85 provide options for consumers at this point, and AAA would support a motorists’ right to choose E15 once basic thresholds have been met regarding consumer protections. More than 95 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States is E10, which contains up to 10 percent ethanol. E85, which contains up to 85 percent ethanol, is designed for use by flex-fuel vehicles.

A AAA survey last fall found that only 12 million out of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads were approved by manufacturers to use E15. Thirteen manufacturers stated that the use of E15 may void warranty coverage. AAA’s automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of E15 could result in costly problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights in some cars. An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed by AAA were not familiar with E15, indicating a strong likelihood of consumer confusion leading to misfueling.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

AAA Testifies at Senate Hearing on Gas Prices

July 16th, 2013 by Amanda Shapiro

Michael Green Contact Tile(WASHINGTON, July 16, 2013) AAA’s Chris Plaushin (director, federal relations) is testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today during a hearing “to explore the effects of ongoing changes in domestic oil production, refining and distribution on U.S. gasoline and fuel prices.” Chris Plaushin’s testimony is available here.

What is Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technology?

June 10th, 2013 by Amanda Shapiro

Now in development, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems use a GPS receiver, a radio/antenna and a computer to share automobile location and movement information with other V2V-equipped vehicles up to a quarter mile away. That information is then analyzed and used to alert the driver to potentially hazardous situations. Warnings can be provided in a variety of ways, including sounds, visual icons, control feedback and seat vibrations.

More advanced systems may also employ vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications that allow the car to receive driving condition information from traffic lights, road signs or even the highway itself. Common notifications might include traffic congestion, speed limits, or height restrictions on bridges and tunnels. The combination of V2V and V2XI technology is often referred to as V2X.

When V2X capabilities are integrated with advanced driver assistance systems, the vehicle could take control of the brakes and/or steering to avoid a collision if a driver fails to react in time. Unexpected emergency situations combined with ineffective driver reactions result in millions of crashes every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projects that V2X systems could help prevent up to 81 percent of collisions involving drivers not impaired by drugs or alcohol. As V2X-equipped vehicles begin to appear on our roadways, shared information could also be used to smooth traffic flow, reduce congestion, improve fuel economy and cut emissions.

Automakers, technology providers, research institutes and governmental agencies are all engaged in developing V2V and V2I technology. The Department of Transportation is expected to decide some time in 2013 whether V2X systems should be among the safety features built into our vehicles. Given its potential benefits, there is a good possibility your next new car will employ V2X communications to help you be a better driver.

Gasoline or Compressed Natural Gas?

June 10th, 2013 by Amanda Shapiro

Consumers face competing priorities in making automotive decisions. They want to save money on fuel, and they appreciate protecting the environment by reducing greenhouse gases, but their primary concerns are most often cost and convenience. An example is the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as an automotive fuel, which offers both advantages and challenges.

An August 2012 AAA study found 39 percent of AAA members were interested in vehicles that used two or more fuel sources, such as gasoline-electric hybrids or “bi-fuel” vehicles such as those that can run on either gasoline or CNG. However, trade-offs that include higher vehicle prices and limited refueling options are holding them back.

“Consumers want to make the right decision for the environment, but they also need that decision to be economically sound,” says AAA’s Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair John Nielson. “Vehicles powered by alternative fuels such as CNG have the potential to meet those requirements, but the extent of the benefits varies with the vehicle and how it is used.”

CNG is up to 40 percent less expensive than gasoline for the equivalent amount of energy. On the other hand, converting a vehicle to run on CNG can cost $10,000 or more, an expense that can take years to recover in fuel savings. CNG fueling stations are also rare in most areas and unavailable in others. The Department of Energy says there are just 578 public CNG fueling stations in the U.S.

Most CNG vehicles on the road today are large trucks that get relatively poor fuel economy and travel tens of thousands of miles per year. Under these conditions, the time needed to recover the higher price of a CNG vehicle can be as little as two years, with ongoing fuel cost savings thereafter. As a result, most current CNG vehicles operate in commercial service, and large fleets often install a private CNG fueling station to meet their vehicle fueling needs.

The only CNG vehicle currently targeted at the average motorists is the Honda Civic Natural Gas – a dedicated CNG vehicle with no provision to use gasoline as a backup. With a list price of $26,465, the Natural Gas costs $5650 more than a comparable gasoline-powered Civic. In addition, the lower energy content of CNG combined with limited storage tank space gives the Civic Natural Gas a driving range of just 190 miles versus nearly 400 miles for a gasoline Civic.

“CNG vehicles can make sense and save money in some commercial applications,” says Nielsen. “However, for the average consumer, the added cost and greater inconvenience of using CNG to power a passenger car doesn’t pencil out right now – although that could change in the future.”

Every spring gas prices seem to skyrocket to the highest prices of the year. Why does this happen? In explanation, we hear the experts say that many of the refineries are “down for maintenance while transitioning from winter-blend to summer-blend gasoline,” but what does this mean?

The difference between summer- and winter-blend gasoline involves the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of the fuel. RVP is a measure of how easily the fuel evaporates at a given temperature. The more volatile a gasoline (higher RVP), the easier it evaporates.

Winter-blend fuel has a higher RVP because the fuel must be able to evaporate at low temperatures for the engine to operate properly, especially when the engine is cold. If the RVP is too low on a frigid day, the vehicle will be hard to start and once started, will run rough.

Summer-blend gasoline has a lower RVP to prevent excessive evaporation when outside temperatures rise. Reducing the volatility of summer gas decreases emissions that can contribute to unhealthy ozone and smog levels. A lower RVP also helps prevent drivability problems such as vapor lock on hot days, especially in older vehicles.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says conventional summer-blend gasoline contains 1.7 percent more energy than winter-blend gas, which is one reason why gas mileage is slightly better in the summer. However, the summer-blend is also more expensive to produce, and that cost is passed on to the motorist.

The switch between the two fuels happens twice a year, once in the fall (to winter-blend) and again in the spring (to summer-blend). The changeover requires significant work at refineries, so oil companies schedule their maintenance for those times when they will already be “down” for the blend switches.

As a consumer, the main thing to understand is that there are real reasons for the switch from winter- to summer-blend fuel, even if it results in some pain at the pump.

Michael Green Contact TileHearing to highlight need for consumer protections, education and additional research on E15

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 26, 2013) – AAA President & CEO Robert L. Darbelnet will testify today before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment that regulators and industry should suspend the sale of E15 gasoline until motorists are better protected. AAA will highlight the inadequate consumer protections and education efforts to date and will express support for additional testing by the National Academy of Sciences.

“Congress’ decision to examine potential problems associated with the sale of E15 is encouraging news for motorists,” said Darbelnet. “Most drivers are unaware of the potentially harmful effects of E15 and have not been properly educated about this new fuel entering the market.”

Additional Resources

  • Click here to listen to a AAA interview with Robert L. Darbelnet on E15

The hearing will examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to allow the sale of E15, a blend of gasoline containing up to 15 percent ethanol. The subcommittee scheduled the hearing partly in response to AAA’s recent findings that E15 may cause consumer confusion, void warranties and contribute to vehicle damage.

“AAA is not opposed to ethanol, but we are against the way E15 has been introduced and sold to consumers,” continued Darbelnet. “We welcome the committee’s support today as AAA calls for additional impartial research and for regulators and industry to suspend the sale of E15 gasoline until motorists are properly educated and protected.”

The subcommittee hearing, “Mid-Level Ethanol Blends: Consumer and Technical Research Needs,” is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 2:00 PM EST in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.

A AAA survey last fall found that only 12 million out of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved by manufacturers to use E15. Five manufacturers stated their warranties would not cover fuel-related claims caused by E15, and eight additional manufacturers stated that E15 did not comply with fuel requirements in owners’ manuals and may void warranty coverage.

AAA’s automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of E15 could result in costly problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights in some cars. An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed by AAA were not familiar with E15, indicating a strong likelihood of consumer confusion leading to misfueling.

Both E10 and E85 provide options for consumers at this point. Ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to support American jobs, promote American energy independence and save Americans money. More than 95 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States is E10, which contains up to 10 percent ethanol. E85, which contains up to 85 percent ethanol, is designed for use by flex-fuel vehicles.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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