You’ve no doubt heard the joke. About how your actual mileage will . . . vary.
Everyone knows this means: Expect to get less than whatever the EPA advertises on the new car window sticker. But in the EPA’s defense, at least the “city” and “highway” numbers we’re used to seeing are comprehensible. And – within a roughly 10 percent margin of error – they correspond with on-the-road reality.
Then there’s this “MPGe” business that’s beginning to show up on new car window stickers. On the stickers of plug-in hybrids – which all of a sudden everyone seems to be selling.
Your mileage will really vary.
106 MPGe! (Chevy Volt) 97 MPG! (Ford Fusion Energi) 74 MPGe! (Mercedes GLC350e).
These are spectacular claims – not unlike those late-night TV miracle diet pill ads that promise you’ll drop 20 pounds a week.
Let’s dissect this scam – the MPGe thing, I mean – and then get into the reasons for the scam. Actually, let’s get into the reasons first. They center on the frantic – on the part of the car manufacturers – need to sell or at least get rid of plug-in hybrids and electric cars.
Frantic, because the car companies are forced to manufacture them – not because of customer demand but because of the jihad being waged by the government against internal combustion via de jure “zero emissions” vehicle production mandates and de facto production mandates such as the fuel economy fatwas – which cannot be complied with absent the production of vehicles that don’t use any fuel (well, any gas) either all the time (pure electric cars) or some of the time (plug-in hybrids).
These vehicles help with the averages – the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) averages.
By adding “e” to the MPG mix.
In addition to the usual IC-engine city/highway figures, the electric mileage is factored in. It is computed as follows: 33.7 kilowatts of electricity is equivalent, in terms of energy, to a gallon of gas. Thus, an electric car or partial electric car (plug-in hybrid) that uses 29 kilowatt-hours every 100 miles of driving would rate 115 MPGe, according to the EPA.
Of course not. You’re not supposed to. You are supposed to believe that the plug-in hybrid you’re looking at is going to achieve 106 or 97 or 74 MPG – just add “e”!
Just like those late-night TV diet pills that are going to turn you into a bikini model by the end of next week.
A plug-in hybrid can avoid burning gas for awhile. A little while. The best of them, as defined by how far they can go without burning gas – operating entirely on the batteries, assuming a full charge – is the Chevy Volt. It can go about 53 miles on a fully topped-off battery. I can verify the Volt is capable of that, having test driven one (see here). But after the 53 miles, the IC engine takes over for the depleted batteries and will provide most if not all the motive force until you can find a place (and the time) to recharge the batteries.
This is how all plug-ins work. Run out of juice, burn gas.
And it won’t be a little – because plug-ins are heavy. About 400-500 pounds heavier than an otherwise-identical but not hybridized version of the same car. And because plug-ins are under-engined for their weight. When they have to fall back on IC to keep on going, the little engine struggles . . . and burns.
And most plug ins can’t go nearly as far as the Volt without running out of juice. The Ford Fusion Energi plug-in I test-drove last week (reviewed here) goes about 25 miles on the batteries. Maybe. If you drive very . . . gently.
Enter the scam.
You’ll never come close to the advertised “e” MPGs – unless most of your driving is within the plug-in’s radius of action on the batteries. Since every plug-in on the market – with the exception of the Volt – has a maximum electric-drive range of no more than 25 miles, very best case – you will almost certainly be burning a lot more gas than the sticker leads you to believe.
How much gas?
About 33 MPG (Volt) and 37 MPG (Fusion) was my real-world mileage once the batteries went flaccid and the IC engine took over.
It’s not bad mileage – especially given the weight of these things. But it’s less than half (and as little as a third) the touted “e” MPGs. And when you take into account the price of a plug-in vs. the same car without the plug-in gear, it’s not just net money loser – it’s a money vaporizer – whatever the MPGs.
Which, I suspect, is why they – the government and the car companies – are resorting to this . . . let’s call it what it is – deception. They have to – in order to trick people into buying these things. Because why else would people buy them? They cost on average $5,000-$7,000 more than the non-hybridized/IC-only version of the same vehicle.
The math is . . . unfavorable.
But the car companies are desperate.
And to be fair to them, what choice have they got? They have to comply with the “zero emissions” regs – even if there are emissions, just elsewhere.
They are also under extreme duress as far as the mileage fatwas are concerned. This more than anything else accounts for the otherwise-inexplicable effusion of plug-ins, including extreme examples of this mania, such as the decision by BMW and Mercedes to offer a plug-in version of every vehicle they sell.
But it’s all entirely artificial, driven by what has become much more than a mere nudge to get anything exclusively IC-engined off the road. It’s now a shove.
It is very interesting to take note of the fact that “consumer advocates” and “public citizens” are silent on this oleaginous business.
Yet the consumer – loathsome term, isn’t it? – is being conned. Realistically, unless your drive is put-putting a few city blocks with a Faberge egg under the accelerator pedal and you can recharge when you get there before you need to get back here – your mileage, “e” or otherwise, is going to vary a helluva lot from what the EPA is hoping you’ll be dumb enough to believe it will be.
. . .
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