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Old 08-14-2012, 04:24 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Angry Big Hybrids: Unfairly Dinged?

Am I crazy? Or is this true?

Larger hybrids never live up to their fuel economy ratings in tests because automotive editors have feet the size of whales.

Every automotive website I’ve visited (Edmunds, Car and Driver, Motor Trend) likes to point out that their hybrids (especially bigger ones) never come close to fuel economy on the window. Heck, someone even told off Edmunds on a gas-only vehicle:

Originally Posted by shark_driver
Your mileage results are puzzling. My AWD '13 Escape Titanium with the 2.0 averaged 28 MPG. I got as high as 35 and as low as 22, driving conservatively while it was breaking (literally) in. If you drive like a automotive journalist on a test drive, then yes, you will get worse mileage. I cannot see how you got 20 MPG unless you're vehicle had a problem, you tracked the data poorly or you're not being completely honest about the way you drove your test vehicle.

2013 Ford Escape vs. 2012 Honda CR-V Comparison Test
I totally get that hybrids aren’t for everyone. Their fuel economy is incredibly responsive to driving style—aggression is punished while patience (even driving “like an old person”) is rewarded. Not everyone will tolerate driving this way. Heck, I just told a friend that if she ever wanted a higher-MPG vehicle, she should go diesel because her driving style would not go well with a hybrid!

That said, I think big hybrids get an unfairly bad rap from lead-footed automotive journalists who think we all drive like Top Gear’s Stig. In the real world, people the internet over complain about my car (Highlander Hybrid) getting a miserable 22MPG (rated 26 or 28 combined depending on model year).

You can all see my fuel logs. I put my pedal where my mouth is. Also, I’ve taken to comparing my “savings” vs. “EPA rating” to really be “savings vs. people who drive normally.” I was one of those people to start and boy did I not like the 22MPG I was getting. So I came here and learned how to be better instead of complaining and entirely blaming the car for not just magically producing the window sticker mileage.

I think people should consider how they drive and where they live before buying a hybrid, just like people do with electric cars (due to range issues). People expect hybrids to “just work” when the only one that does exactly that tends to be the (smaller) Prius. 35MPG worst-case (friend told me this about winter driving), 55MPG or more otherwise. He has not “hypermiled” or done anything that’s different from what people learn in driver’s ed.

As for me, I have to work for anything over 25MPG. It’s certainly possible but you’re not going to get there driving “normally.”

My motto for buyers of larger hybrids: You’re going to have to forget everything you learned in driver’s ed if you want anything close to the window sticker! Hybrid 33% below window sticker? Problem exists between wheel and seat! (to borrow/modifiy "PEBCAK")

In general, people need to realize that how you drive matters almost as much as what you drive. Even the best hypermiler probably can't get 60MPG out of a Chevy Tahoe--it's physically impossible to use that little energy to move a vehicle that large.

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Old 08-14-2012, 05:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Eh, I wouldn't get too worked up. Pretty much every car review I've ever seen shows mileage significantly below EPA for any vehicle, not just hybrids (unless they were specifically trying for better mileage).
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Old 08-14-2012, 06:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I agree. I look at the other Escape Hybrids on Fuelly and I can't believe that some of them are averaging 26-27MPG. The new EPA ratings for my model are 30 city/28 highway, the old ones are 36 city/31 highway. In mixed and mostly city driving, I come pretty close to the old city rating and I can get the old highway rating with the cruise set to 70-73MPH, AC on, and some really good hills (with cruise left on). My wife gets about 31MPG in mixed driving, and she's improving. My only mods are tires to 44PSI (pretty aggressive all-seasons), roof racks removed, and an Ultragauge to show instant mileage.

I think one of the biggest helps is being able to see the instant mileage. Not a silly little graph with no numbers like the Escape has stock, but actual numbers. Even if it isn't 100% calibrated, you can still see what is better and what gets you 10MPG.


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