NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 23, 2007

Fuel-saving gasoline-electric hybrid cars don't save as much fuel as thought, according to new government fuel-economy ratings available to the public for the first time.

The new ratings go into effect beginning with 2008 models, a few of which will soon be on sale.  But now it's possible to tell what rating 2007 and older models would get using the 2008 standards.

  • Toyota's Prius, the best-known and best-selling gas-electric car in the United States, drops from a 60 mpg rating under the current system to 48 miles per gallon in the city under the 2008 testing procedure -- a 20 percent decline.
  • Its highway mileage rating falls about 12 percent, to 45 mpg.
  • The Ford Escape hybrid, which uses a gasoline-electric drive system similar to Toyota's, goes down about 12 percent.

"What the cars get hasn't changed. It's just the numbers on the sticker," says Toyota spokesman Mike Michels.  The lowered Prius rating is "probably more reflective of real-world experience," he says.

Tests the government has used for mileage estimates were created in the 1970s and haven't reflected today's driving environment.  They have assumed, for instance, that people don't use air conditioning and don't drive more than about 60 mph.

Source: James R. Healey, "Car mpg ratings going down; Hybrids take biggest hit in new system," USA Today, February 23, 2007.

For text:

For website:


Browse more articles on Environment Issues