A rather odd story has been unfolding over the last few days involving Ford Motor Company, EPA MPG testing, math and the 2019 Ford Ranger.
The story broke on Thursday, Feb 21, 2019 with Ford announcing it was voluntarily investigating employee concerns over the accuracy of vehicle fuel economy and emissions testing procedures according to AutoNews.com.
The news was the concerns weren’t related to any sort of so-called defeat devices aimed at getting around EPA testing, rather it was about “‘incorrect calculations were used to translate test results into the mileage and emissions data submitted to regulators,” Kimberly Pittel, Ford’s group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering, told Reuters.
These incorrect calculations were raised last fall and Ford said it was working to making changes in its process to develop fuel economy and emissions figures which include “engineering, technical and governance components.”
Naturally, this kind of news got everyone fired up especially after the VW dieselgate of just a few years ago and Ford’s own 2013 re-certification of its C-Max hybrid car which had to be restated at 7 MPG below its initial MPG estimates.
Then, one day later on Friday, AutoNews.com ran another story pointing out it could simply be a mathematical error causing all the issues.
John German, an independent consultant who recently left the International Council on Clean Transportation and a key player in exposing VW’s cheating scandal, it is likely “road load” which is to blame. Road load is industry jargon for items like friction, weight and aerodynamics. These factors are hard for automakers to estimate according to German.
It also sounds like a simple mathematical mistake by an engineer which lead to all of this hubbub.
“It sounds like somebody messed up,” German told AutoNews. “But if Ford voluntarily came forward and will revise CO2 emissions calculations and mileage values, chances are there won’t even be any fines.”
No fines perhaps, but probably frustrated consumers especially Ford Ranger buyers. Pittel said the investigation has the new mid-size pickup in its cross hairs and expects data back next week to see how far off or close they are to the actual reported MPG figures.
Until they have this data, Ford won’t know if they will have to change their advertised MPG numbers. Right now, Ford has a best in class 26 MPG rating for highway (21 city/ 23 combined) which is 3 MPG better than the perennial sales king, Toyota Tacoma.
According to early Fuelly.com numbers, the 2019 Ford Ranger is currently returning 1 MPG less in combined. This could simply be oddity though since the data set is small and the pickups are still getting broken in.
It will be interesting to watch as things unfold. For now, there should be an asterisk next to the Ford Ranger’s MPG numbers until this all gets sorted out.
Ford’s Official Statement
FORD INVESTIGATING PROCESS FOR U.S. EMISSIONS CERTIFICATION CONCERNING ROAD LOAD
DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 21, 2019 – The following can be attributed to Kim Pittel, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering, Ford Motor Company:
“In September, a handful of employees raised a concern through our Speak Up employee reporting channel regarding the analytical modeling that is part of our U.S. fuel economy and emissions compliance process.
At Ford, we believe that trust in our brand is earned by acting with integrity and transparency. As part of this, we have a process for looking at how we perform and behave in our broad and complex company.
As a result of the concern, we have taken a number of actions. Specifically:
We have hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation into the vehicle road load specifications used in our testing and applications to certify emissions and fuel economy.Road load is a vehicle-specific resistance level used in vehicle dynamometer testing, including for fuel economy ratings and emissions certifications. Road load is established through engineering models that are validated through vehicle testing, including physical track tests referred to as coastdown testing.
Ford has retained independent industry technical experts as part of our investigation team.
We are hiring an independent lab to conduct further coastdown testing as part of our investigation.
Ford also is evaluating potential changes to our road-load modeling process, including engineering, technical and governance components.
This week, we voluntarily shared these potential concerns with Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board officials.
The investigation and potential concerns do not involve the use of defeat devices in our products. At this time, there’s been no determination that this affects Ford’s fuel economy labels or emissions certifications.
We plan to work with regulators and the independent lab to complete a technical review. As part of our review, we have identified potential concerns with how we calculate road load. The first vehicle we are evaluating is the 2019 Ranger; we are assessing additional vehicles as well.
As always, we strive to be transparent with our customers, employees, dealers, shareholders and other stakeholders. We understand how important it is to all audiences that we thoroughly yet swiftly complete this investigation.”
Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.