Hybrid Gas Mileage Falls Short

Pete Blackshaw was so excited about owning a hybrid car that he made a movie of his trip to the Honda dealer in Cincinnati.

He filmed the dealer sticker for his new Civic hybrid, advertising 47 miles per gallon, and put a special plate on his new car that read "Mo Miles."

But, as CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason reports, instead of "Mo Miles" he got lower miles: about 32 miles per gallon.

"When I realized the car wasn't getting the full mileage, I really felt let down," says Blackshaw.

Those official mileage estimates come from the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The EPA numbers can be very misleading," says David Champion, chief of testing for Consumer Reports.

Champion says most cars fall short of their EPA mileage estimates, but on its test track, Consumer Reports found, "the discrepancy for the hybrid vehicles was much, much bigger," particularly in city driving.

While the EPA rated the Honda Civic hybrid at 47 miles per gallon in the city, consumer reports got just 26 miles per gallon. The EPA rated the Toyota Prius at 60 miles per gallon in the city.

"We actually got 35, so it's a big difference," says Champion.

Why the difference?

The EPA tests cars on a machine that measures the exhaust. At Consumer Reports, they actually splice a fuel meter into the fuel line.

Champion believes the Consumer Reports test it the toughest independent test out there.

But Toyota and Honda say they're required to use the EPA numbers.

"And they are mandated by the government for us to use in our advertising, so we have little flexibility in the numbers we can quote," says Gunnar Lindstrom of Honda.

But the EPA says that's not exactly true. While automakers are not allowed to advertise mileage numbers that are higher than what the EPA certifies, they can advertise lower ones.

Hybrids still get excellent mileage; just not what Blackshaw thought he was promised.

"If the brand promise doesn't meet reality, it's a recipe for disappointment for everyone," says Blackshaw including his wife, who took some pictures and wanted a different car.

"She's pretty upset, and she's ready to huck my 'Mo Miles' license plate into the Ohio River," says Blackshaw.

You'll get "Mo Miles" from a Hybrid, just as not as many "Mo" as advertised.
  • Jaime Holguin

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