CAFE Increases Coming Sooner Than Expected

Today, the Department of Transportation is expected to announce a more aggressive timetable for fuel economy increases: automakers will be required to raise average fuel efficiency to 31.5 miles per gallon by 2015. The fleet’s overall average in the 2007 model year was 26.7 mpg.

In December, Congress approved an increase of Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) to 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020, leaving it to the Bush administration to decide how fast to implement the increases.

The announcement comes on Earth Day, and one day after AAA reported that Americans are paying an average of more than $3.50 per gallon for gasoline for the first time. The Bush Administration and the auto industry are under pressure to respond to public anger about high gas prices, and to deflect proposals from California and 16 other states that call for fuel economy to reach more than 43 miles per gallon by 2016.

The effectiveness of the new Department of Transportation proposal depends on many details, and potential loopholes, in the plan:

  • The plan is not finalized. The public and automakers will have a chance to comment on the plan before it becomes final.
  • The proposal creates credit trading and transfers, which allow automakers to apply credits earned from passenger cars exceeding mpg targets—to light trucks and SUVs. Automakers that continue to produce gas-guzzlers can buy credits from more efficient automakers.
  • Instead of one overall number, the proposal uses size, or other attributes of the car, to set fuel economy numbers. It’s not clear how the attributes will be defined.

If finalized, the proposed increases and new time table will intensify the auto industry’s shift to smaller, less powerful engines, as well as hybrid gas-electric vehicles and diesels.

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  • David munday

    The technology is already out there, Today! Why are governments waiting until 2020. I drive a TCH and I am already getting 2020 mpg’s. My TCH is well apointed and has plenty of room for four full sized adults. Ford has the Escape for those who want to drive an SUV and Honda, Toyota and a number of others have real Hybrids on the road now for those who want small to midsized vehicles. Someone stop the insanity and elect someone who can see tomorrow, today!

  • Need2Change

    In my opinion, US auto makers will need to increase their fleet average to 31.5 by 2010, or die. By 2015, they better be closer to 35.0 mpg if they want to survive.

    CAFE is a joke.

  • MJ

    Forget this fleet stuff… no car or truck should be sold in the US if it can’t get 20 MPG or more… We need to attack this from the bottom up and get these big SUV’s and Truck’s up higher.. The technology is there. If a Chevy Tahoe can get 24 MPG every car should be able to

  • Need2Change

    Looks like the 15 mpg (combined) Hemi Dodge Challenger that has a waiting list over a year long will make it difficult for Chrysler to improve fleet mpg. 🙂

    The crazy thing is that in about 20 years, the 2009 Hemi Challenger will be selling for over $100K — like a 1969 Hemi Dodge Challenger is today. Chrysler has already announced that the Hemi’s days are numbered.

  • Dom

    Cheap quick easy way to improve fleet average – manual transmission. Americans – quit being lazy and learn to change gears again. You might even find the experience is also more fun than driving an auto slushbox… car enthusiasts never forgot… neither did the Europeans…

  • jerry

    We have too many traffic jam we can’t drive manual trannies

  • cliff lapp


    Actually, a CVT (Continually Variable Transmission) gets the best gas mileage-better than a manual OR an automatic.

    And, if you have a manual, you can drive it “wrong” and get worse mileage than an automatic.

    CVTs are the way to go.


  • Dom

    CVTs do not get better mileage than a manual. Oh, and you can drive an automatic wrong too… for example – flooring the pedal every time, as opposed to moderation. That’ll kill mpg quicker than driving in the wrong gear for a bit. By the way, people are taught how to drive in a thing called drivers ed. Start teaching with a manual, and we might end up with better drives too. CVTs and traditional automatics are both more complex and less efficient than a simple manual transmission. But cliff lapp is a good example of a typical American driver, which is why most cars are sold with an autotragic transmission these days. I should move to Europe. They’ve got much better taste in cars.

  • Dom

    Oh, and by the way, you think a manual transmission car is easy to drive “wrong”? Look how easy it is to drive a hybrid “wrong”!!! I’ve been ready this site for years, and there have been tons of people that come here clueless on how to drive their hybrids to actually get decent mpg, as there a lot more sensitive to bad driving than non-hybrids. By the way most hybrids are automatics… CVTs (or equivalent) at that. To get good mpg in any car regardless of transmission, you have to pay attention to how you drive. But this is especially true in a hybrid.

  • Dom

    One more note on the CVT – the Honda Insight with a CVT got WORSE mpg than the Insight with a manual. Same thing with the original Honda Civic hybrid, back when a manual was available. Go look it up if you doubt me. Ok, I’m done now.

  • Shines

    Some of us must commute and public transportation is not always a good option. I can and have driven a stick. You ever drive a stick when stuck in stop and go rush hour traffic? It is NOT fun.
    I agree with you that a stick is usually more fuel efficient and can be very fun to drive. A stick provides more control options (down-shifting and the like) but it is not always the best choice.
    Driving fuel efficiently (how you drive – like you said) probably reduces stress and accidents as well.

  • jack r

    Amazing, instead of weakening the mileage standards like they usually do they’re raising them. Clap Clap Clap

  • Lans

    Bush Administration is “doing something” again… yeah right. Where is the leadership that Americans brag about being leaders and so value when in comes to global warming?

    Lets put more pressure on them so they’ll “act again”. :-p

    My 2cent on CVT vs. MTs:
    In theory CVT should always win against AT and MT but early CVTs had many issues and so, like diesel, has a tarnished reputation. And yes, depending on how the CVT is implemented (read Wikipedia or something), it can be less efficient than MT (or even AT).

    The fact that Honda discontinued MT on their hybrids (at least Civics, just bought one recently) should be an indicator how mature it is becoming.

    I can’t find the link article (maybe video) CVT and MT on a uphill but I can’t see how MT would be better than CVT uphills.

    If trying to speed up going uphill (from a complete stop for example) then you’ll upshift and each time car will jerk and you slide back or rather slow down a little (one normally let go of gas pedal, press clutch, shift, then accelerate again).

    Even if you are just trying to maintain speed, chances are you’ll have to down shift most likely (unless hill relatively flat or small).

    With CVT, you won’t notice a thing! Therefore, a good CVT will always win when it comes to acceleration and efficiency (assuming only difference is transmission). One of “disadvantages” is drivers tend to think the car is less powerful because it is so quiet and smooth… -_- Then again, hybrids usually get smaller engines.

    If you are going on a flat road with no stopping, depending on distance, you are probably better off driving a hybrid without its electric motor/batteries! The advantage of hybrids is because that not what real world conditions are!

  • Dave99

    So what about those electronically controlled transmissions that are a manual transmission with a computer and actuators controlling it? I think that might be a good compromise between you all 🙂

    Also, due to the nature of CVTs, they naturally have more parasitic losses. Although, if tuned right I believe they might have promise.

    … 43 mpg by 2016 seems crazy. This would likely make the average cost of a new car increase dramatically because the automakers would have to spend more on technology/lightweight materials/etc. That is, unless Americans decide that they only really need to buy a car that will accommodate their needs, and not one that is super-huge.

  • VaPrius

    Drivers Ed has never taught anyone how to drive efficiently. It’s not intended to. Any car, if you floor it, will get bad MPG whether manual, CVT or automatic. Cliff is right, CVT absolutely gets better mileage than any other transmission. Manual transmissions only work if the driver pays close attention. The Honda Insight manual got bette MPG than the CVT model because it was a closed test with a professional driver. CVTs are a better choice, barring significant driver training, because they can chose the best gearing ratio for vehicle demands. Not even Europe has the training required. But, Don, I do agree with you, European manufacturers have much better taste than American manufacturers.

  • Charles

    I lived in San Fransisco and worked in Mountain View. Owned three different 5 speed manual cars. It was not a problem. Driving a manual is easy even in traffic and on hills. If anything it keeps your attention on driving, which is were it should be.

    As for MPG differences. The CVT is heavy compared to the MT, giving the MT a bit of an advantage. As well as other advantages others have in their posts.

    As for driving what you need. If you own a boat, please do not buy a big truck or SUV to tow it a few times a year. You can rent a big SUV for about $100/day. A Ford Escape hybrid can pay for a days rental in about 2000 miles.

  • Dom

    What’s the big deal with commuting and driving a manual?? I’ve done it no problem. Traffic congestion isn’t fun regardless of what you drive. Besides, you don’t think they have traffic congestion in Europe (where manuals are the norm)??? They do have one thing we are usually missing – traffic circles… those keeps things moving much better than than stop lights.

    Charles – your comment on driving a manual helps the driver pay attention is spot on, at least for me. I get incredibly bored driving an autotragic, and my mind usually starts to drift. A manual keeps me engaged, and makes the whole driving experience a lot more fun. I don’t like appliance cars, and I think driving SHOULD be fun. So give me a manual anyday.

    Yes, there are automatically shifted manual transmissions. One example is VW’s DSG transmission. Its fuel efficiency comes close to that of a manual. But I still wouldn’t want one if I can help it.

  • will the thrill

    yes, lets just force all of those idiots who don’t believe exactly what you believe, to do exactly what you want them to do. I mean democracy is overrated when obviously you all know what is best for everyone. After all they are just ignorant stupid Americans right?

    If we want people to drive less, raise the gas tax and give subsidies to alternative energy/ fuel efficient vehicles. Demanding people drive a certain type of car be it hybrid or manual is absurd.

    Also, this is a good thing. Bush moved the time table up and increased the CAFE standards. No, I don’t agree with 99% of Bush’s legislative agenda, but this was a good decision. When you bash it, it just shows how biased and unreasonable you are. Just because an incompetent, uncaring president suggested it, doesn’t mean it is a bad suggestion.

  • Shines

    Driving in rush hour traffic is not a big deal. Who said anything about traffic congestion in Europe?
    For me – and you can call me a whimp or whatever – I don’t care)
    I’d rather
    lift my foot off the brake, let the automatic push the car forward and press the brake to move forward and stop in stop and go traffic
    push in the clutch, shift into gear, lightly press the gas, let off the clutch to inch forward, push the clutch back in, shift my other foot to the brake to stop in stop and go traffic.
    Driving a stick is not hard to do and in certain situations there are fewer steps than I described above.
    However, there are plenty of other risks driving in rush hour traffic to keep my mind focused on driving.
    If I had no choice I would drive a stick and it would be no big deal.
    But I do have a choice. I’ve been driving for over 35 years and I choose a fuel efficient vehicle that has an automatic. It may not be as fuel efficient as the same model with a manual, but it is by far more efficient than what most Americans are driving.

  • splashy

    We have a manual, have for years, and are going to switch to an automatic with the next vehicle.

    We hate the bit of having to stop on a hill going uphill, with another vehicle right on our tail, then having to work the brake clutch and accelerator all at the same time to get going again with only two feet, AND not rolling backwards and hitting that idiot that is crowding our tail. It’s really nerve wracking!

    Manuals are good if you live where you want to use them to control the speed going downhill, but you can downshift with an automatic to do it. We have decided we just don’t want to mess with the manual any more.

  • Soyarma

    Unless you are really paying attention to your tach and know your power-band you are probably driving a manual in a fashion that will not get the best gas mileage. The average person will simply not be able to do that enough of the time to outweigh the decent mileage that an auto gets most of the time.

    That being said, if you know what you are doing and you tune your automatic properly (a lot harder to do these days) you can get it to always shift at exactly the right time. Since automatics can shift faster than humans (if they are tuned right – luxury cars shift much slower) which they have since Chrysler made the A727 transmission in the early 50’s, they lose less power during the shifting process.

    I’m unconvinced that modern cars really get very good mileage-at all. A 1968 Dodge Charger with a 318 (5.2L) will get 22-24MPG highway with today’s gas (it would get better with 100+ octane like it should have). It weighs almost exactly the same as a 2009 Toyota Camry with a V6, yet the Camry only gets 28MPG. Now I know that’s with all of the amenities, but the ’68 is using points ignition and a carburator. If you swap it to electronic ignition and add a few other modern goodies, like an electric fuel pump and water pump a 60’s 318 will hit 30MPG.

    And though the Camry’s V6 has more power on paper, it gets it at over 2x (for both torque and horsepower) the RPM that the 318 gets it at. Which means to get any real performance, you have to floor it and then that 28MPG goes out the window. The 318 has a low powerband, so you get the performance without having to rev the engine and thus you get better mileage.