Federal Government Delays Proposal on 2017 to 2025 MPG Targets

Honda Insight side crash test. The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius have received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s “Top Safety Pick” award based on front, side, and rear crash testing. The rating dispels the myth that high fuel efficiency always requires a compromise in terms safety.

The decision by most auto companies to aggressively pursue hybrids, electric cars, and gas-powered cars with smaller engines is closely tied to aggressive fuel economy targets. Automakers will be required to hit an average of 35.5 MPG by 2016. In October, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency said they were considering an even bigger jump by 2025—as high as 62 miles per gallon. Environmentalists applauded the effort, and argued that the increase is achievable with existing technologies.

Keep in mind that these numbers are not those found on window stickers, but the more generous values used for Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency regulations. Nonetheless, the percentage increase—and the associated cost and potential impact on vehicle safety—have caused the federal agencies to pause, according to Detroit News.

The agencies had planned to come up with exact numbers for 2017 to 2025, by the end of November. But the decision about proposed levels of fuel efficiency increases has now been pushed back to September 2011—with a final decision expected in July 2012.

Automakers are not happy about the high numbers and argue that higher efficiency will be too costly and require unacceptable compromises on safety. Regulators say that despite the average higher upfront cost—estimated between $770 to $3,500 depending on how far the government goes—would be recouped by consumers during four years of ownership. Automakers reply that the cost analysis is flawed.

The improvements will have to be spread across entire vehicle lineups. Therefore, the agencies expect vehicles to shed weight—by as much as 30 percent—in order to reach the higher proposed efficiency levels. The government will launch three studies to look at the impact of the regulations on vehicle safety.

Despite industry opposition, Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Ford and other automakers continue to expand their choice of high-efficiency gas models, as well as hybrids and electric cars. Hyundai, which will introduce the Sonata Hybrid early next year, aims to reach 50 mpg by 2025, ahead of government deadlines.

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  • George T.

    Well, yes loosing 30 percent of weight may be dangerous – it may increase car accident fatalities by 1,000 per year.
    It is better to pollute the environment.
    It is better to put the planet at risk of global warming.
    It is better to pay $300 billions per year (and growing) for imported oil.
    It is better to pay $150 billions per year for War-Related Costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    It is better to loose 1000 solders per year Iraq and Afghanistan.
    It is better to finance the terrorism.

    I am wondering, is National Highway Traffic Safety Agency part of OPEC?

  • Yegor

    What so crazy about 62 MPG?
    Toyota Prius is CAFE 71 MPG Average
    Ford Fusion Hybrid is CAFE 54 MPG Average
    By passenger volume people do not really need cars bigger than these two. (71 + 54) / 2 = 62.5 MPG

    These cars pay for themselves Prius annual fuel cost is $858 while comparable Toyota Matrix is $1532.

    There is no car weight loss and indeed the cost would be recouped by consumers during years of ownership.

    There are trucks but there are plug-ins also.
    62 MPG does not seem to be so big.

  • Charles

    I would like to see one safety compromise. The US requirement that unbelted drivers and passengers survive a crash. I want safe cars. I just do not see a reason to protect somebody who will not do anything to protect themselves. Call it evolution if you like.

    It would be nice to bring the European and American safety standard together. Pick the hardest of each and make that the standard (except of course the US unbelted requirements). It would help companies to bring to America some of their smaller European cars. It would also lower weight by getting rid of structure that only protects the unevolved.

  • Anonymous

    35.5 mpg is already easily achieved by many reasonable sized vehicles. With maturing hybrid technology, I see 50 mpg is a very achievable target in 5 to 6 yrs.

    I guess car companies just don’t want to get rid of their profitable gas wasting suv models. But is it worth to support handful of companies’ profit at the expense of national security, environment, and progress? I think not.

  • Yegor

    If Toyota Prius is EPA 50 MPG but CAFE 71 MPG then
    Nisan Leaf EPA 99 MPG is CAFE 140 MPG !!!

    Nissan Leaf does not have any 30% wight loss reduction.

    So what so unachievable about CAFE 62 MPG?

  • Yegor

    National Highway Traffic Safety Agency is so worried that 62 MPG may decrease car weight and therefore car safety.

    I wonder how many people get sick and die prematurely because of car air pollution?

    Much more! There was a study that people that live next to busy roads are sicker and live shorter.

    Stop listening to National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (an OPEC agent indeed) – look at the big picture! Bring the fuel economy standards to where they should have been long time ago!

  • Yegor

    25% of GM sold today (40,000 per month) are huge passenger vehicles with the size of Chevrolet Traverse (curb weight 5,000 lb) or even bigger like Chevrolet Tahoe (curb weight 6,000 lb). This is totally unreasonable.

    CAFE standards had to be toughen long time ago so the situation that we have today when huge passenger vehicles (gas guzzlers) sold in huge numbers would never happened!

  • Indigo

    Gee… the Obama administration backing down from a campaign promise? Say it ain’t so! He is basically “Bush Lite”.

  • jorgekafkazar

    Those calculations that show hybrids “pay for themselves” invariably omit the cost of replacing the batteries. With allowance for new batteries after 4 or 5 years, there is no payout, even before any waste charges for battery disposal. The batteries are the most expensive part of a hybrid and weigh several hundred pounds. You can’t add 500# to a car and get better gas mileage at anywhere near the same performance. The hybrid is an expensive compromise, a boutique vehicle.

  • Peter

    I own a SUV. If this come in in my area, I expect to need two to three cars to carry the same number of people + baggage for long trips, which I make regularly. 65 mpg = much more expensive, less safe (small cars) and same or worse fuel efficiency. The worst thing about this is the massive environmental damage from the batteries. (I own a battery powered house, and battery life and toxicity is a huge problem).

  • Actionxav

    I live in France and I can’t believe what I see …
    Around 32000 people die on the US road every year, and only 27000 in Europe … are our car more dangerous ?
    The French average of the new vehicle was already higher than 45 mpg in 2009 (5.2 L / 100 Km and 134 g CO2/Km).

    I just think that the oil lobbies are really good in the US and that the country’s independance will depend on middle eastern super-nice-and-friendly countries for quite a few more years … or decades …

    A lot of people expect the USA to be a leader, to show the way. We like the US and we could love the country much more if those bad habits could desapear …