A former executive with the Environmental Protection Agency believes that CAFE regulations won’t be lowered during the upcoming midterm review, saying the fuel economy numbers are achievable by the auto industry.
Margo Oge, called the “Queen of Cleaner Cars” by some, was the EPA’s director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality when the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations were drafted. She has been outspoken in recent months about the upcoming midterm review following the publishing of her book, “Driving the Future: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars.”
“I strongly believe the standards will not change,” Oge said.
As part of the original agreement, officials with the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will begin working with auto manufacturers soon to analyze the progress towards regulations set to take effect in 2025. This gives carmakers the opportunity to raise concerns over the fuel economy and emissions standards if they feel these goals are too far out of reach.
Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler, has already been vocal in saying that the standards should be relaxed.
“There is not a single carmaker that cannot make the 54 [mpg] number,” said Marchionne in January. “The question is, at what a price?”
Though he does believe the auto industry can reach the 54.5 mpg goal, Marchionne said it isn’t feasible to reach that in the next five years.
“The question is whether 2025 is a realistic date for which to achieve it,” he said.
Others have joined Marchionne, citing cheap gas prices, mediocre support of alternatively fueled vehicles and the technology limitations as obstacles that make a fleet average of 54.5 mpg unattainable.
“Government agencies reviewing regulations for the] CAFE) standards should realign current regulations with realistic, marketable goals,” stated an editorial by The Detroit News last month.
“The fuel economy standards are already a challenge for the auto industry – particularly Detroit automakers – to meet fully.
“And more stringent rules will only hamper auto companies’ growth and increase vehicle prices for consumers.”
Oge said she is not swayed by these objections.
“I know that Sergio last January called for revisions to the standards, and I know that quietly companies are concerned about gasoline prices,” said Oge in an interview with Automotive News. “But I don’t believe that you’re going to get everybody together, all the companies, to tell EPA to relax the standard in 2025.”
When the regulations were written, said Oge that most government officials thought the numbers could be met by using technologies already developed, such as “downsized turbocharged engines, stop-start, and enhanced transmissions.”
Since then, advances in electrified powertrains and lightweight materials have progressed even faster than she had anticipated.
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“If I put these two pictures together in my mind, I would say that the industry is serious in investing in alterative powertrains and lighter-weight materials,” Oge said. “If you told me [in 2007] that General Motors is going to be very serious about investing in the area of advanced powertrain, I wouldn’t believe it.”
Oge explained that the significant decline in the cost of lithium-ion batteries over the last few years is helping to bring down the price of electric and plug-in vehicles. She also noted that even larger, internal combustion vehicles like the Ford F-150 pickup are already meeting the 2025 standards.
Watch more of Oge’s comments about the CAFE regulations in this interview:
(Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)