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Fuel Efficiency Labels and Actual Gas Mileage

April 6, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) determines the official fuel rating of automobiles using a 5-cycle test methodology based on urban commuting, rural highway operation, high speed/acceleration, high temperature/air conditioning and cold temperature operation. The USEPA’s fuel rating is displayed on the window-labels of new automobiles and provides consumers with a “real-world” MPG estimate they can use to compare different vehicle models. However, more often than not the actual fuel efficiency of vehicles is below the expected value displayed. This is especially true of commercial fleet vehicles and fleet operators have come to accept significantly lower MPG than the USEPA’s rated efficiency.

The main reason fleets are not able to achieve the rated fuel efficiency is due to the differences in actual driving conditions compared to simulated test conditions conducted by USEPA. Simulated test conditions are applied to represent driving conditions and driving behavior for the entire country and do not take into account regional differences. For example, fuel economy of trips carried out in areas with steeper gradients, or predominant cold weather conditions, or with varying payloads, etc. would significantly differ from conditions of a USEPA simulation with conditions averaged across the country. Moreover, the driving behavior and driving cycles of commercial fleet drivers and the variability of maintenance levels of fleet vehicles are also atypical of simulated driving behavior.

The Good News…

The Data Science team at Azuga Labs is working at developing fuel economy profiles for each vehicle type using a repository of rich fleet trip data collected over several years across various regions of the United States. Fuel economy profiles for each vehicle are built using optimal trips – trips that have no incidents of overspeeding, hard accelerations, hard braking and long idling – providing a fuel economy benchmark for every vehicle in a particular geographic context. This serves as a reference for expected fuel economy within a specific location for different weather conditions and with optimal driving behavior. Fleet managers could pick the expected fuel economy from an appropriate fuel economy profile for a particular month, say for a Ford F150 in Colorado in January, and compare that with his Ford F150’s actual fuel economy. This fuel economy profile would represent a region at a high elevation (with lower air resistance and oxygen levels), as well as rolling terrain, both of which affect fuel economy for different vehicle and fuel types. The same Ford F150 in another region like Florida in August, characterised by lower elevation near sea level and fairly level land, would have a very different fuel economy profile.

A lower trip fuel economy compared to the fuel economy profile would indicate that driver behavior has been under par OR vehicle maintenance requires attention. Azuga Labs has developed an algorithm for a trip-based fuel economy score based on fuel economy profiles of commercial vehicles. The fuel economy profile provides an association between average trip speed and fuel economy for a particular make, model, year, fuel type in a particular month and region with optimal driving behavior. At the end of each trip, the trip is scored based on the difference between expected and actual fuel economy values. The algorithm, using the Fuel Economy Score along with a Driver Score, would then be able to tell whether the driver has driven poorly OR if there is a problem with the vehicle with regard to fuel efficiency. A fleet manager would also be able to use the profiles to get a better picture of expected MPG in the region of his operations while making decisions on purchasing new vehicles.

This tool, coupled with Azuga’s social telematics rewards and gamification program, helps fleet managers even more accurately manage Azuga’s fleet driver scores. Morever, the Azuga Fuel Economy Scoring system would incentivizse fleet drivers to drive in a manner as prescribed by the vehicle manufacturer while also incentivizing their managers to be more sensitive towards vehicle maintenance.

Azuga is excited to be at the forefront of enabling driver behavior change for improved safety and efficiency. This is just the beginning and more is yet to come. Have questions about when you can get access to Azuga Fleet Fuel Economy Scores? Visit us to get answers and continue the conversation on Twitter, @Azuga_GPS or continue to visit our blog to learn more.