Not for lack of trying, but the US auto industry isn't going to hit the government's 54.5-mile-per-gallon fleet average fuel economy target. While the industry has made dramatic strides to improve its fleet-wide efficiency, it's the American consumer's infatuation with pickups, SUVs, and crossovers in the face of affordable gas that's sinking fuel-sipping efforts.
That's according to a report from Automotive News (and former Autoblog Editor-in-Chief Sharon Silke Carty), which claims that regulators are abandoning the 54.5-mpg minimum, due to come into effect in 2025. The EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and California Air Resources Board made the announcement in the latest Technical Assessment Report draft.
The government saluted the auto industry's push to adopt "fuel economy technologies at unprecedented rates."
During a conference call with AN and other reporters about the report, government officials said the 2025 mandate isn't actually a mandate, but an estimate of where the auto industry could be in nine years. The EPA's original 2025 standard expected cars to make up two thirds of the new vehicles sold that year, while trucks, crossovers, and SUVs represented just a third of MY2025 sales. But with consumers buying the latter in increasing quantity, the original percentages simply were not realistic.
The new estimate should more accurately reflect market realities – a "more even split" between cars and trucks, according to AN – and a fleet average fuel economy between 50 and 52.6 mpg. In moving the goalpost, the government saluted the auto industry's push to adopt "fuel economy technologies at unprecedented rates."
"Car makers and suppliers have developed far more innovative technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce GHG emissions than anticipated just a few years ago," a press release obtained by AN said.
But while automakers are probably doing a gig in the hallways, critics of the government's decision are many. AN spoke to director of the Safe Climate Campaign, Dan Becker, who said "There is no excuse not to improve efficiency and strengthen the standards." Autoblog has heard from a number of critics, too.
"US automakers have been caught flat-footed before." - Carol Lee Rawn, Ceres Transportation Program
Carol Lee Rawn, director climate change activist Ceres' Transportation Program, warned "US automakers have been caught flat-footed before, when prices at the pump rose and they weren't ready with the kind of fuel-efficient vehicles buyers wanted." American Lung Association CEO Harold P. Wimmer said "Strengthening fuel efficiency standards will reduce carbon pollution, drive innovation and help protect public health."
"The US is firmly on the road to meeting its carbon pollution and fuel economy goals," Luke Tonachel, director at the Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. "The transportation sector is one of the largest sources of carbon pollution. Continuing to strengthen clean vehicle standards is good for America's consumers – and it's absolutely critical to bringing about cleaner, healthier air and a more stable climate."
According to Automotive News, the EPA won't make a final decision on CAFE standards for 2022 to 2025 until April 1, 2018.
Now IT’S NOT ACTUALLY 54.5 MPG.
That was when CAFE was written. Since then, the way me measure MPG now is more strict and closer to real world numbers. The 54.5 MPG target is more like 40-45 MPG real world.
The city and highway test cycles haven't changed since they were introduced. It was acknowledged back then that the results were higher than what most would get in the wild, so they introduced a set modifier for the numbers on the window sticker.
For 2008, three new test cycles were introduced. The results of these tests were used to determine the modifier to use on the city and highway results. However, car makers weren't forced to use them, and could elect to replace them with a mathematical model. Which works for typical cars, but skews high for fuel efficient ones. This was part of the problem with Ford's recent hybrid numbers on introduction.
Back to CAFE, this has always used the raw results from the city and highway, and has never changed.
As for the OT, I blame the cowards in Congress for not putting a tariff on imported petroleum for this. Consumers wouldn't be switching back to inefficient vehicles if fuel prices had stayed up, and our domestic oil industry wouldn't have been hurt by the Suadis flooding the market. They aren't going to keep doing so.
America's addiction to fossil fuels needs to stop, or at best be reduced. The only way to enforce this is to raise taxes an hit people where it hurts the most. If something is cheap people will not only consume more, but waste more too. It's the same with anything. It's surprising how many people start caring when they have to pay for the pollution they cause. Many countries have adopted this in Europe with carbon based taxes and high fuel prices and C02 emissions are constantly dropping. It's the only way, act now before its too late.
Turns out they aren't lowering the targets on vehicle classes; cars still have to hit a certain value, and so do trucks. The projected mix for the 54.5mpg number was 70:30, and now they are considering making it 50:50 for the CAFE target.
Study: Nearly 80 percent of Americans support stricter fuel economy rules
A majority of both Democrats and Republicans were concerned with transportation's effect on the environment and believe that lawmakers should take it into effect when developing transportation plans, according to a new survey.
For the past month or so, the Environmental Protection Agency has been making headlines over its proposal to lower the fuel economy standards it had set for 2025. The EPA won't sign off on any changes to its plan until 2018, though, and in the meantime, at least one group is pushing it to reconsider.
That group is the Natural Resources Defense Council, and as you might guess from the name, it works "to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment". The NRDC recently funded a study to pin down U.S. public opinion on matters like energy efficiency, and the results weigh heavily in NRDC's favor.
That's not to say that the survey's findings are necessarily bogus--it was conducted by a reputable, third-party market research firm, ORC International. It's only to say that the NRDC has an interest in keeping fuel economy benchmarks high, and therefore, the survey ought to be viewed with a critical eye.
Last month, ORC conducted phone interviews with 1,012 U.S. adults. The company asked respondents a battery of questions about transportation, pollution, climate change, and similar topics. Here are the key findings:
77 percent of those surveyed agreed that “cars and trucks contribute to the problem of air pollution”. Among self-identified Democrats, that number was higher, at 87 percent. However, Republicans were clearly concerned with transportation's effect on the environment, too: 69 percent agreed that there was a direct link between the two.
The results were a little more mixed when respondents were asked whether state agencies should consider "vehicle-related carbon pollution and climate change" when developing transportation plans. On average, 78 percent of those surveyed agreed that agencies should do just that, but support was far higher among Democrats (92 percent) than Republicans (64 percent).
On that same question, several groups were especially likely to agree that agencies should develop transport plans with pollution and climate change in mind. Those groups included respondents age 18 to 34 (88 percent), women (86 percent), and Hispanics (86 percent).
79 percent of respondents agreed that the federal government should set higher fuel economy standards. That figure was higher among Democrats (90 percent), and lower--but still high--among Republicans (68 percent).
When the question came to automakers' involvement in boosting fuel economy, though, the responses were very, very clear: ORC found that 95 percent agreed with the statement, "Automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicle types.' Support varied little, whether respondents were Democrats (97 percent), Republicans (93 percent), or independents (94 percent).
Will the EPA consider the NRDC's survey when evaluating changes to its fuel economy guidelines for 2025? Perhaps. But of course, automakers will have their own surveys, studies, and reports on hand to push the needle in the other direction--all of which ought to be viewed as critically as the NRDC's.
If you like, you can review the full results of the NRDC's survey here
The only way to enforce this is with legislation and taxation, hit people where it hurts. That's what they do in Europe, most of us hate the government anyway, what choice do we have? Ultimately they have control over prices of fuel, congestion charges and carbon based taxes. It's legislation that forced people to buy more modern, fuel efficient vehicles here, and it's similar legislation that will force us to buy EV'S too. Everyone has freedom of choice, but we are easily out-costed too.
re Study: Nearly 80 percent of Americans support stricter fuel economy rules
Just like Kenny G's music is for people who like the idea of jazz, but not the actual art form, they like the idea of supporting stricter fuel economy rules, but not the actual practice of buying smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The same North Americans who are buying gas-guzzling SUVs will be the same ones crying about pain at the gas pump when fuel prices go up.
FWIW, I have an Audi Q5 3.0 diesel, and I love it (a 2L diesel engine wasn't available). I'm constantly playing the hypermiling game. I just spent 2 days driving from Ontario Canada to Florida, USA (1,160 miles) at 50 MPH, just to see if I could break my old record.
2015 Audi Q5 "Progressiv" + S-Line + Scuba Blue, 3.0L V6 TDI
(Highest fuel economy for all Audi Q5s on Fuelly!)
The thing is, buying an "economical" or "low emission" vehicle no longer requires compromises like space, safety, performance anymore, people just need to be aware that BIG and economical cars exist, and then educate them how to drive them properly.