A recent study has revealed that car manufacturers are still massaging their emissions figures, and whilst that may not be the most shocking news you’ll hear today, the extent of the cheating could be; it was found that some cars are as much as 63% down on their claimed mpg figures.

The findings are made worse when you consider that these figures specifically relate to vehicles bought for their green credentials – hybrids.

Just one in 39 hybrid models currently available actually achieves the manufacturers claimed mpg, although on average, a typical hybrid will return around 70% of the claimed figure.

The Volkswagen fallout

The buying public really first found out about emissions cheating as a result of the Volkswagen scandal in 2015, and although trade insiders widely understand that it was happening on a regular basis, with many of the manufacturers, it seems that Volkswagen paid the price.

The reason why the Volkswagen scandal was so detrimental to the brand was that they had set out to deliberately cheat on emissions testing – going so far as to having software that reacted to an emission testing situation, whereas for many of the other manufacturers, it was purely down to the vehicle being tested in absolute optimal conditions; the results were the same but achieved differently.

The ‘dieselgate’ scandal with Volkswagen led to new legislation being introduced – Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (similar to the existing tests, but faster and more dynamic – using a range of engine loads/speeds, gearchanges and temperatures) and the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) which involves driving a vehicle on open roads, including motorways and urban areas for 90 minutes, both tests should see a significant improvement in the truth regarding claimed emissions.

Why hybrids?

From the 1st September 2018, all new vehicles will have undergone the WLTP testing, and the RDE testing will come into effect on the 1st September 2019 – this should stop the wild exaggerations of manufacturers, in the meantime, however, there is still the matter of 63% less fuel economy for some hybrids.

The study by HonestJohn is based upon 148,000 real-world fuel tests, and whilst it was expected that the regular diesel and unleaded figures would be different to the claimed manufacturer figures, the surprising truth was that they were closer to manufacturer figures than the hybrids; one hybrid in particular was achieving just 36.9% of the manufacturers claimed figures – 49.63 mpg against a claim of 134.5 mpg, at the opposite end of the scale, the closest was still nearly 16% down on the manufacturers figure.

Further legislation

The UK Government has recently passed further legislation targeting manufacturers who deliberately set-out to cheat the emissions testing, but we should make it clear – this is targeting the makers that fit a ‘defeat device’ (such as Volkswagen did) to beat the testing; this won’t target those manufacturers whose numbers are on the generous side through optimising their testing – laboratory conditions, static load, set temperature, constant speed – these are currently still accepted methods for testing.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman says that some manufacturers are “dishonest and deplorable” and that the new regulations (which come in to power on 1st July 2018) will ensure that any brand caught cheating will be made to pay financially and legally – as much as £50,000 per car that’s been found to have a device fitted.

This is possibly too little, too late, especially if the RDE and WLTP testing legislation works as they should.

What does this mean for the motorist?

If you’ve bought a hybrid specifically for the purpose of saving fuel & money, you’re probably all too aware that it’s not achieving anything like it should – the number one selling plug-in hybrid is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, by our reckoning, 10,000 miles should cost in the region of £354 in fuel, but readjusting that figure from the results of the study, it’s closer to £833.

If you’re currently looking to purchase a hybrid, our advice would be to wait until September at the very least – manufacturers should be using the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure then, which in theory means that any claimed figures will be a little closer to reality, but if time is of the essence, you should research the models fuel consumption before signing on the dotted line – don’t take the manufacturers word for it.

The top five least accurate figures are:

  1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350e – achieves 36.9% of the claimed 134.5 mpg
  2. BMW 3 Series 330e – achieves 37.2% of the claimed 134.5 mpg
  3. Volkswagen Golf GTE – achieves 38.1% of the claimed 166.3 mpg
  4. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – achieves 42.5% of the claimed 166.0 mpg
  5. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 225xe – achieves 56.4% of the claimed 141.2 mpg

And the best:

  1. Lexus GS450h – achieves 84.2% of the claimed 45.6 mpg
  2. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2WD – achieves 79.3% of the claimed 57.6 mpg
  3. Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-I Hybrid – achieves 77.9% of the claimed 91.2 mpg
  4. Kia Niro 1.6 GDI Hybrid – achieves 77.4% of the claimed 74.3 mpg
  5. Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid – achieves 77.2% of the claimed 74.3 mpg

Do you own a hybrid? Do you feel that the report is accurate? Have you been surprised at just how IN-accurate the fuel consumption figures are? Let us know in the comments.

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