Report: Fuel smugglers costing Europe $4B+ in lost taxes

Filed under: Europe, Government/Legal

Euros in Fuel Tank

Cash-strapped European governments have been fighting a parasitic drain on their tax revenues from fuel theft and the tax fraud that goes along with it. According to a report from Bloomberg, individual governments are losing anywhere from 100 million to 1.3 billion euros ($133 million to $1.7 billion at today’s rates) due to the scams. The increase in theft and fraud is being blamed on a 52-percent jump in diesel prices.

Eastern European markets have seemingly been hit the hardest, with untaxed diesel estimated to make up 13 percent of Poland’s market, while the Czech Republic estimates that 20 percent of the fuel its citizens consume is provided illegally. In Lithuania and Poland, fuel is selling for 1.34 euros per liter and 1.30 euros per liter ($6.74 per gallon and $6.55 per gallon), respectively, while across the border in Russia, it’s 31.27 rubles per liter ($3.57 per gallon). This has led to a booming trade of both Poles and Lithuanians traveling across the border to purchase fuel legally, and a black market that’s seen Russian gas sold locally for less-than-local prices while still turning a profit. According to Bloomberg, 25 percent of Lithuanians admit to buying illegal fuel.

Western Europe hasn’t been immune to the scams, though. The Bloomberg piece opens with a bit on workers smuggling 912,000 liters of fuel out of a German refinery from the start of 2011 to last June. In Northern Ireland, black market diesel is 40 pence per liter lower than the UK’s average diesel price of 1.42 pound per liter (converted to USD, that’s $5.98 per gallon of illegal diesel to $8.33 per gallon of the taxed stuff).

As governments are a bit quicker to respond to things when their pockets are being lightened, several countries have tweaked their tax codes regarding fuel trades, closing the loopholes used by smugglers. Ireland has gone so far as to implement electronic monitoring for fuel movements. In Poland, the new coding is expected to slash illegal trade by 50 percent within four years.

Fuel smugglers costing Europe $4B+ in lost taxes originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 30 Aug 2013 11:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Report: EPA says fuel economy test for hybrids is accurate

Filed under: Hybrid, Government/Legal, Hatchback, Ford

EPA claims its hybrid vehicle tests remain accurate, but says Ford C-Max Hybrid exploited a loophole.

The EPA says it stands behind its fuel economy test for hybrid vehicles following controversy about the testing process after Ford C-Max Hybrid customers and automotive journalists alike struggled to achieve 47 miles per gallon, the advertised mpg number, Automotive News reports. Ford responded to the issue almost two weeks ago by claiming that a 1970s-era EPA general label rule was responsible for the inaccurate mileage numbers, rerating the C-Max Hybrid’s mpg numbers and offering customers rebates. Ford later said it didn’t overstate the C-Max Hybrid’s fuel economy and that it was surprised by the low numbers.

Ford technically didn’t do anything wrong because it was following the general label rule, but agency regulator Christopher Grundler says the automaker was exploiting a loophole when it came up with the hybrid C-Max numbers, and that the testing process remains accurate. The general label rule allows vehicles that use the same engine and transmission and are in the same weight class to share fuel economy numbers, but it doesn’t take into account other factors such as aerodynamic efficiency, which affects hybrids more drastically than non-hybrid vehicles. Ford originally used the Fusion Hybrid economy figures for the C-Max Hybrid and claimed the engineers didn’t realize that its aerodynamic efficiency would affect fuel economy as much as it did.

To address the increasingly commonplace practice of using the same powertrain in multiple applications, Grundler says, the EPA rules need to be changed so more car buyers are not mislead.

Toyota is standing with the EPA on this one after spurring a revision of test methods in 2006 after overstating Prius mileage numbers. Toyota said in a statement that it believes “the current labeling methodology established since 2006 provides appropriate fuel economy label values for customers, when automakers apply these rules with good common sense and engineering judgement.” And yes, that sounds like a well-aimed but somewhat ill-timed shot from Toyota to Ford to us, too…

EPA says fuel economy test for hybrids is accurate originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 26 Aug 2013 16:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Quick Spin: Ford Mustang GT Bi-Fuel CNG

Filed under: Coupe, Hybrid, Performance, Ford, Quick Spins

2013 Ford Mustang GT Bi-Fuel - front three-quarter view
Highly intrigued, we recently visited a Southern California Gas Company office to check out several hybrid vehicles promising something new. Unlike more commonplace gasoline-electric hybrids, we were there to evaluate innovative gasoline-compressed natural gas (CNG) hybrids – yes, they run on unleaded gasoline and compressed natural gas. According to the experts on hand, this arrangement delivers extended range and reduced emissions while chipping in with lower operating costs than pure-gasoline vehicles. There are advantages over its gasoline-electric counterparts, as well.

The program is part of a three-way collaboration between The Carlab, a Southern California-based automotive consulting firm, Landi Renzo USA, a company specializing in alternative fuel solutions, and America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a group that promotes CNG. Long story short, the team has engineered a way to allow a modified internal combustion vehicle to seamlessly switch between two fuels (gasoline and CNG) with no driver intervention. In theory, and if it works as well as promised, it’s a win-win for the vehicle owner and the environment.

Parked at the Gas Company office were six different gasoline-CNG hybrid vehicles. To demonstrate the technology’s versatility (just about any gasoline vehicle may be modified) Carlab brought a varied assortment of bodystyles, each from a different automaker. After taking a quick glance at the half-dozen in the parking lot, we made a beeline for the performance-oriented Ford Mustang GT – a 2012 model – with the six-speed manual gearbox.

Driving Notes:

  • The conversion to bi-fuel requires the installation of a four-gallon composite CNG tank (3,600 psi) beneath the rear trunk liner, CNG bi-fuel port injectors, a special fuel controller, integrated dash display and some other hardware. With the exception of the blue “CNG” diamond on the rear of the trunk, the exterior of this Mustang hybrid offers little clue to what type of fuel it consumes. The interior of the cabin is equally discreet, but a closer look at the digital panel on the instrument cluster reveals an OEM-like four-bar “GGE” gauge with the tank level. Peering under the hood, the only obvious changes are the new injectors (the CNG tank is filled through a nipple located behind the OEM fuel filler door). The conversion adds about 150 pounds to the coupe’s curb weight.
  • From a driver’s standpoint, vehicle operation is unchanged. A sophisticated controller determines which fuel is best for the job (or a mix of both), so gasoline is often used for the cold start. However, after a few moments of operation, the vehicle will seamlessly switch to more efficient CNG operation for partial throttle and during cruising. A firm press on the accelerator immediately delivers gasoline into the combustion chamber, bringing the Mustang’s full 420 horsepower on tap. During our drive of the manual transmission coupe, we noticed a very slight delay – almost a hiccup – at about 3,000 rpm during the bi-fuel transition (we later drove a BMW X3 automatic, and the changeover from CNG to gasoline was unnoticeable). Once it made it over this hurdle, power delivery was smooth and strong.
  • In addition to the improved efficiency and lack of power compromise, the CNG tank provides a bonus boost in vehicle range. The tank is good for about 55 extra miles, so it adds upwards of 20 percent to the Mustang’s cruising distance. That’s a nice plus.
  • Carlab is touting the gasoline-CNG bi-fuel model as an alternative to plug-in hybrids. Instead of heavy battery packs requiring nightly charging, they envision a world where owners would have a home CNG refill station that would make fueling effortless and bring prices down to about $.80/gallon – a fraction of the price of gasoline.
  • The cost of conversion to the typical passenger vehicle is slightly less than $3,000 (assuming a production rate of 20,000 annual units), meaning the average owner would earn back the cost after about 2.2 years – that’s quicker that the return on investment for a Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius, says Carlab.
  • While we were impressed after our first experience with the hybrid gasoline-CNG vehicles, natural gas still has a mountain of hurdles to overcome. Even if one assumes that the non-renewable resource may be easily obtained, the refueling infrastructure will take many years to build.

Ford Mustang GT Bi-Fuel CNG originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 23 Jul 2013 15:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Honda recalls select 2013 Accords over fuel tank neck

Filed under: Coupe, Sedan, Recalls, Safety, Honda

Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have announced a recall for 1,659 model-year 2013 Honda Accord vehicles. The affected Accords are Low-Emission Vehicle II rated cars manufactured between January 15 and April 5 of 2013.

The recall is pursuant to a fuel tank neck that might be out of specification, and the variance could result in the fuel pump not properly sealing with the fuel tank. As you might guess, a bad seal here could result in a gasoline leak, posing a fire risk. As of this writing, there have been no reports of fires because of this problem.

Honda will reach out to owners of affected 2013 Accords, directing dealers to replace the cars’ fuel tank, nut and O-ring gasket. Expect the notifications when the recall begins in earnest on August 1. FInd the full NHTSA press release below.

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Honda recalls select 2013 Accords over fuel tank neck originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 19 Jul 2013 15:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Official: Ford hybrids getting update to improve fuel economy

Filed under: Hybrid, Sedan, Hatchback, Ford

Ford has announced that it is introducing “calibration updates designed to improve on-road fuel economy for owners of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.”

We can speculate that these changes are at least due in part to lawsuits over mileage claims of hybrid vehicles. The automaker is enhancing 2013 models starting in August by raising their electric cruising speed to 85 miles per hour from 62 mph, optimizing the use of active grille shutters and the climate control system, shortening the engine warm-up period by 50 percent and reducing electric fan speed to minimize the fan’s energy consumption.

It bears mentioning that Ford is doing pretty well in the US electrified vehicle market this year. The company claims to have grown its share in the segment by 12 points to 16 percent while taking a high number of Toyota Prius trade-ins in the process. Conversely, Toyota has experienced a five-percent drop in new-Prius sales over the same period. Additionally, Ford states that it has increased its share of the US vehicle market by one percent this year, more than any full-line automaker.

We’re sure Ford will be monitoring the fuel mileage of its hybrid fleet closely with the hopes of seeing significant improvements, though the automaker offers the expected ‘Your mileage will vary” disclaimer, which you can read all about in the press release below.

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Ford hybrids getting update to improve fuel economy originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 16 Jul 2013 20:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Average new-car fuel economy figures continue record pace

Filed under: Budget, Hybrid, Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Electric

Manufacturers are making more efficient cars and trucks; we’ve known that to be true for some time. Nearly every new car has some sort of trick to eke a few extra miles out of every gallon of fuel. Whether that be turbocharging, active aerodynamics or hybrid technology/electrified powertrains, the fact is that our vehicles are more efficient than ever before.

Thanks to a recent study by TrueCar, we’ve got fresh quantitative data to support the above statements. For the fourth month in a row, we’ve seen an improvement in national fleet fuel economy. We Americans are 0.7 miles per gallon more efficient than we were last month, and our cars are 1.6-mpg better than at this time last year. That said, we’re still down on 2013’s high, which was set back in January at 24.5 mpg.

Not only does this reflect the improved technologies in our vehicles, but it demonstrates a changing mindset among consumers, who are purchasing more efficient vehicles despite the relative stabilization of fuel prices. Every fuel-efficient model sold drives its manufacturers fleet average up.

The top three brands among mainstream manufacturers aren’t a huge surprise. Hyundai, which offers 10 models with four-cylinder engines (including the excellent Elantra range) took the top spot, while the diesel and turbocharged models from Volkswagen finished just 0.8 mpg behind Hyundai’s 27-mpg average. Honda is further back in third, thanks to its remarkably efficient four-cylinder engines. American makes didn’t fare as well, with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all finishing below the 23.7-mpg industry average. This isn’t a huge surprise, though, as the Detroit Three are responsible for the vast majority of eight-cylinder pickups and muscle cars sold in the US.

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Average new-car fuel economy figures continue record pace originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 13 Jul 2013 11:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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New VW Golf TDI BlueMotion is ‘most fuel-efficient ever’ with 73.5 mpg

Filed under: Diesel, MPG, Volkswagen

vw golf tdi bluemotion

Volkswagen claims its newly launched Golf TDI BlueMotion is about as good as it gets with that old standby, the internal combustion engine. The new Golf consumes 3.2 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers, the equivalent of getting 73.5 US miles per gallon (on the European cycle), a 15-percent improvement in fuel economy over the previous model.

The new Golf TDI BlueMotion produces 85 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometer, which Volkswagen says is one of the best values worldwide for a car powered by internal combustion. Most impressive is the claim that this sort of efficiency, and the car’s 50-liter fuel tank, allows for a potential driving range of 1,500 kilometers (about 932 miles) between fill-ups. Upgraded aerodynamics – a lowered chassis, a special roof spoiler, and a radiator grille that gets cooled through partially closed air inlet screens in the bumper, for example – improve the Golf’s mpg.

The Golf TDI comes with a new common-rail, turbodiesel direct injection four-valve, four-cylinder engine that operates efficiently across a wide range of rpm. It offers 108 horsepower between 3,200 and 4,000 rpm, which VW says is ” a very fuel-efficient operating range.” Starting at 1,500 rpm and on through to 3,000 rpm, the new Golf TDI Bluemotion delivers a torque peak of 250 Nm (184 foot pounds). Put is all together with the modified six-speed gearbox and you get a 0-62 miles per hour time of 10.5 seconds. But, hey, 73.5 mpg.

This is the first Golf to be available in two well-known Volkswagen specification levels for those interested in spiffing it up. “Trendline” comes with 15-inch Lyon alloy wheels, a large rear spoiler and a redesigned and nearly closed radiator grille. “Comfortline” is additionally equipped with the ParkPilot parking assistance system front and rear, a “high quality” instrument cluster (no, we’re not exactly clear on what that means, either) and a few other perks. If you’re a North American buyer, don’t hold your breath for this model’s availability, but if you’re still interested in seeing how the other half can live, check out the press release below for more specs and details.

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New VW Golf TDI BlueMotion is ‘most fuel-efficient ever’ with 73.5 mpg originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Wed, 26 Jun 2013 10:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Official: VW Passat TDI sets 77.9 mpg fuel economy record through Lower 48 states

Filed under: Sedan, Volkswagen, Diesel

Volkswagen Passat TDI Mileage Record holders - award ceremony

Volkswagen has announced the company’s Passat TDI has set a new world record for the category of “lowest fuel consumption-48 US states for a non-hybrid car.” Drivers Wayne Gerdes and Bob Winger managed an impressive 77.99 miles per gallon over 8,122 miles, trouncing the previous record of 67.9 mpg. The duo also sailed past the hybrid record of 64.5 mpg, another record set by Gerdes. As the founder of CleanMPG.com, Gerdes spends his time squeezing the best fuel economy possible out of passenger cars and trucks, and he’s personally set records in over 100 vehicles.

For this particular world record, Gerdes and Winger visited all 48 contiguous states in 17 days, and Guinness World Records has certified the endeavor. You can read the full press release below for more information, including a few tips to pull the best fuel economy possible out of your personal vehicle.

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VW Passat TDI sets 77.9 mpg fuel economy record through Lower 48 states originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 24 Jun 2013 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Report: Mulally urges Capitol Hill to adopt national fuel standard

Filed under: Government/Legal, Ford

ford ceo alan mulally

Will there be one fuel standard to rule them all? Ford CEO Alan Mulally certainly hopes so, and he’s letting Washington know. As manufacturers spend time and money pushing to reach established Corporate Average Fuel Economy goals, some states are looking to set their own rules. That could prove to be a tricky – and hugely expensive – proposition for the automakers.

We know we said “some states,” but you all know the one we’re talking about. California is (once again) considering the idea of setting its own average fuel economy rules starting in 2017, and the federal government is (once again) considering letting them. Currently, California and the federal government agree that fleet-wide fuel efficiency will be required to hit 34.1 miles per gallon starting in 2012, a figure that runs through 2016.

As part of a visit to D.C. this week, Mulally told House members and Bill Daley, White House Chief of Staff (among others), that he wants the government to step up and standardize fuel economy and emissions rules, which would prevent states from breaking out their own guidelines.

Mulally urges Capitol Hill to adopt national fuel standard originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 01 Jun 2011 18:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Consumer Reports: Car buyers will pay for higher fuel economy, won’t compromise safety

Filed under: Car Buying, Etc., Safety

Toyota Prius models at a dealership

According to a survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, new car buyers are factoring fuel economy as a larger concern in their purchases. That’s no real surprise given that prices at the pump remain high, but the study also revealed that those same consumers are unwilling to sacrifice safety just to net a few additional miles per gallon.

The research revealed that 62 percent of buyers say they are planning to buy a vehicle with much better or significantly better fuel economy than their current ride. On average, that translates to fuel economy of 29 mpg or better. Surprisingly enough, 10 percent of those questioned said that they expected 40 mpg or better from their next purchase. That means that buyers will need to be willing to make all sorts of concessions, including making compromises on purchase price, vehicle size and the number of options.

One factor those surveyed evidently won’t give up on, however, is safety. Only 11 percent of the total respondents said they would be willing to compromise safety for greater fuel economy. Read the complete summary over at Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports: Car buyers will pay for higher fuel economy, won’t compromise safety originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 26 May 2011 18:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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