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100 MPG: Holy Grail or Hype?

Regulators and automakers collude in bending the fuel economy numbers.

by on Apr.21, 2009

100 mpg from a Hummer H3?  Depends on how you do the math.

Get 100 mpg from a Hummer H3? It depends on how you do the math.

The morning headline in the online version of our local Detroit Free Press blares out “100 mile per gallon truck,” a reference to the IDEA, a concept vehicle developed by Bright Automotive, debuting on paper today, at a press conference in Washington DC.

And as regular readers of read, just yesterday, a prototype plug-in hybrid version of the Hummer also claims to be getting 100 mpg.  Hummer boss Jim Taylor told me, “It’s safe to say” that the truck maker, the brand environmentalists love to hate, will need to seriously consider such an alternative energy approach when it’s formally sold off by GM, in the coming weeks. There are no plans to produce this Hummer; it is strictly a concept.

Then there’s the Chevrolet Volt, General Motor’s eagerly-awaited plug-in hybrid – GM prefers the term, extended-range electric vehicle, by the way – which is due to market late next year.  It’s also expected to deliver that Holy Grail number, 100 mpg. The problem here is the President’s Auto task Force has already declared that the vehicle is  too  expensive to be competitive with already on sale hybrids. Still, 100 mpg  is a great headline.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe huge numbers promised for the new crop of plug-in hybrids should be taken with a large shaker of salt.  Mileage numbers aren’t always what they seem.  And in the race to deliver better fuel economy than ever, one has to ask whether the auto industry has discovered the Holy Grail, or is simply delivering a lot of hype by taking advantage of how the numbers are generated, and with the U.S. government looking the other way.