Automaker Alliance Seeking to Influence Midterm Evaluation of Federal Fuel Economy Rules

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says U.S. regulators have underestimated the cost of achieving fuel economy targets and are giving California too much power over federal policies.

As federal authorities review the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules for 2022-2025 in a so-called midterm evaluation, this news comes from the lobbying effort on behalf of automakers.

Even with the current government estimate of $1,800 a vehicle in added costs, “the payback period for alternative technologies extends beyond the timeframe most consumers consider; it is likely to remain that way,” the alliance said in a report posted on its website Monday. Members of the Washington-based lobbying group include General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

More specifically, the alliance is seeking to influence the upcoming midterm evaluation of President Barack Obama’s 2011 plan to boost the fuel economy of cars and light trucks by 54 percent to a projected 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 and cut tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions by 35 percent. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the California Air Resources Board are preparing for the midterm evaluation, with a draft technical assessment report scheduled to come out late this month or in early July.

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The automaker lobbying group also cited the impact of California requirements, adopted by nine other states, that by 2025 a projected 15.4 percent or more of new-vehicle sales must be zero-emissions models, consisting of battery electric vehicles or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In addition, when California issues its own assessment in November on whether the state’s CO2 targets for 2022-2025 should be maintained, it will be jumping ahead of the midterm evaluation and exerting a disproportionate impact on the national debate, according to the alliance.

The EPA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the alliance report. In December, Christopher Grundler, the EPA director of air quality and transportation, said in a report that average fuel economy has improved by 5 mpg, or 26 percent, in the last 10 years, more than expected and that “it’s clear our standards are working.”

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