Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Help Me Howard: Hybrid Gas Mileage
These days, everyone is looking for ways to save money, especially at the gas pump. One South Florida man thought he was doing just that by purchasing a hybrid car that ads said got 40 miles per gallon, but he says he could not get the car to get that mileage. What can he do? Well, begin by calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- With gas prices as high as a helium balloon on a hot day, Jerry Rosen's road to save gas drove him straight to a hybrid.
Jerry Rosen: "To be truthful with you, I saw the sign on the car. It said 40 miles on the sticker, had 40 miles city, 38 highway. l like the idea of it. I like the look of the car. I test drove it. I love the car."
But after his first spin Jerry stopped for his first fill-up and felt his first pangs of frustration.
Jerry Rosen: "I go fill up the tank the next time, and I'm getting 22 miles on a gallon, and I said, what the heck, maybe it needs to be broken in."
Jerry's 2007 hybrid has a regular gas engine that also uses an electric motor to boost the mileage, but for Jerry, the numbers weren't adding up.
Jerry Rosen: "I'm getting 22 to 24 miles on a gallon. I would love to get my 40 miles a gallon and be able to go 500, 600 miles on a tankful, which everybody else is getting except me."
Jerry took it to the dealer. They found nothing wrong. Then Jerry tried easing up on the gas pedal, so the electric motor would kick in and boost the mileage.
Jerry Rosen: "I babied it really, in fact. I almost had many an accident watching the little picture to see if it was running on electric or gas, instead of paying attention to the road, and at 45 miles an hour, they are passing me like I am standing still. They are honking horns at me."
Unable to get his hybrid to hit the mileage marks other drivers were getting, Jerry called Help Me Howard.
Jerry Rosen: "Everybody said the car is fine. Where do I go? That is why I called Patrick."
We then contacted Toyota. They sent a specialist out to test Jerry's car twice. They second time they took Jerry along to watch their expert, and we followed along. They went 40 miles, mixing city driving with highway driving.
Jerry Rosen: "On the dash it said 38, and when we calculated it, it came to 42, which totally shocked the hell out of me."
And the specialist thought he found the problem, after Jerry told him he drove with two feet: the left on the brake, the right on the gas.
Jerry Rosen: "He said he was braking with his right foot as well as the gas. Now, I break with my left foot. He said that may be possibly the difference of how he was getting better mileage."
A Toyota spokesman told us, "Our customers are important to us. We have done everything possible to satisfy Mr. Rosen, and we are pleased that in every situation his vehicle performed well over its design expectations." Jerry tried his car again, he got 26 miles per gallon, so what does he do, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "In this case the car manufacturer has gone out of its way to test the car and to satisfy the customer, and they have proven the car gets the mileage that is advertised. In a case like this, where Jerry can't get the mileage, but the experts and most other car buyers can, then it's not the dealer or the manufacturers problem. It's the buyers problem."
In Jerry's defense, the EPA, they said, they have changed the estimated gas mileage on the '08 cars to do a better job of reflecting real world driving conditions. For example the Toyota Camry Hybrid Jerry drives is now listed as getting an EPA estimated 33 city and 34 highway, but Jerry cant even get that. Bringing up the question, Jerry, are you the problem?
Jerry Rosen: "Apparently it is. I'm going to find out one way or another. I'm not going to let it go. I'm going to continue to investigate and do the best I can with it."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, whether you drive a hybrid or a gas guzzler, there are ways to increase your mileage, everything from accelerating slowly, to avoiding hard braking, to lowering the weight of the vehicle."
Frustrations left you running on fumes? Wanna put the brakes on your bad battles? Contact us, we'll drive in with a hybrid concoction of legal street smarts and TV tenacity.
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