EPA to revise tests of new cars’ gas mileage

The U.S. EPA has announced plans to overhaul its current method for estimating the fuel economy of new automobiles — the miles-per-gallon numbers stuck on the windows of every new car. The method now in use has changed little since the mid-1970s, even though driving conditions have changed substantially — including more traffic, higher highway speeds, and the proliferation of fuel-consuming add-ons like air conditioners. Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly supports EPA’s move. Its independent testing has found that vehicles often fall below their official fuel-economy ratings, sometimes by 40 to 50 percent. Automakers, on the other hand, oppose revising the fuel-economy tests; more realistic mileage figures could make it harder for the companies to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. The EPA says a formal proposal will be ready by the end of this year, and new standards could be in place in time to apply to 2007 auto models.