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Mileage Measurements for Hybrids May Confuse Consumers

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On: Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 12:42PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Mileage Measurements for Hybrids May Confuse Consumers

Hybrid vehicles are an increasing segment of the vehicle market today. It seems highly likely that over the course of the next few years, fully electric vehicles and vehicles that run on natural gas may also make their way into the marketplace.

There needs to be a congruent method for accounting for the cost and usage of energy required to operate various types of hybrid vehicles. More specifically, a system needs to be in place to allow for easy comparisons, to decrease confusion, and allow consumers to make informed decisions.

Up to this point, it has been a relatively easy task that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been able to effectively manage. They simply test fuel efficiency and pass that information along to the public. Quantifiable energy costs is becoming more of a complex issue.

Today the choice has been made to equate energy cost in terms of a vehicle’s miles per gallon equivalence (mpge). For example, consider the forthcoming Nissan Leaf. To establish an energy input efficiency rating one would have to determine how many miles the car travels on a battery that is fully charged. Next, the cost of the electricity that it takes to run a vehicle for a particular number of miles, which would indicate the total mpge.

Tiffany Hsu of the Los Angeles Times explains the energy efficiency rating of the Chevy Volt to help clarify the scenario. “The Volt doesn’t just have an overall rating. In addition to an umbrella figure of 60 mpge, the government gave it a 93-mpge rating for when the Volt is driven only in its electric mode and a 37-mpg figure for when it uses gasoline only. But few, if any, Volt drivers will stick to just one mode. They are more likely to use gas and electric in varying ratios.”

The key here is to project a ratio based on each motorist's driving habits and to try to do so with some degree of accuracy. If serious considerations are made toward the purchase a partially, or eventually a fully alternative energy-propelled vehicle, it may require a bit of extra research to determine what the actual cost of ownership is going to be. Meanwhile, automakers, the Federal Trade Commission, and the EPA all report that attempts will be made to provide clarity and transparency on the topic in orer to make relevant information readily accessible by the public.


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