New CAFE standards could lead to new hybrids and EVs

Citing desire to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, the Obama administration is continuing to push hard to increase the U.S. fleet-wide mpg standards required in just a few years from now.

Ongoing negotiations between the White House and auto industry are now centered on a proposed 56.2 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for 2017-2025.
If settled on in September, so high a mandate would largely be applauded by environmentalists and some others in favor of more efficient vehicles, such as hybrids and electrics, who now favor the administration’s stance.

In contrast, the strict mpg requirement is being decried as a virtual death knell to SUVs, high-power vehicles and safer (more massive) cars by opponents in the auto industry.

A fleet-wide standard averaging 56.2 mpg would effectively force automakers to spend billions to come up with many more economical solutions for internal combustion engine vehicles, plus more electric and hybrid vehicles.

It should be noted that the way CAFE numbers are calculated is different than how the EPA estimates mpg on the window sticker.

Edmunds figures a 56.2-mpg CAFE standard equals an EPA rating of 41 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The 2016 CAFE standard of 35.5 mpg equals about 27 mpg EPA, and a 62 mpg standard would equal a combined 44 mpg.

Raising the bar again

This move to make fuel efficiency standards more stringent follows on the heels of a requirement to increase to 35 mpg by 2016 enacted just a couple years ago.

Since the 1970s fuel efficiency standards had not changed much, but the 35 mpg hoop was quickly placed as a new one to jump through, and now 56.2 mpg is being argued over.

For his part, the president has said he wants far more fuel efficiency, as his prior campaigning for election had stated.

“Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security,” Obama had said on the campaign trail.

Since last year the prospect of a 62 mpg (100 km) CAFE standard had been in consideration, but over the last weekend in June, the administration came down to 56.2 mpg in a concession toward 47 mpg proposed by auto industry stakeholders.

The industry has consistently argued that mandating fuel efficiency from on high will not necessarily make consumers more favorably disposed toward efficient vehicles.

“So you can design and build an auto that has this incredible technology on it, but if no one can afford to purchase it, the vehicle just sits there on the sales lot,” said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the industry group Auto Alliance. “And worst of all, that customer – instead of buying the new auto – drives around in their old automobile, which certainly doesn’t have all the fuel technology that we’re working to introduce into the fleet.”

Dan Becker, the director of the policy group Safe Climate Campaign begs to differ however.
The industry already drove itself to bankruptcy pushing SUVs and inefficient vehicles, he said, and he questioned whether automakers are really in touch with what consumers will buy.

“You know, the auto industry never learns a new trick,” adds Becker. “This is the same argument that they used in 1974 when they testified against the original fuel economy law. The technology that is in the hybrid vehicle is something American people love. They like high tech products. They don’t want a 1950s engine in a 2010 or 2011 vehicle. And there are costs to improving the technology. They’re real. But they’re made up for two to three times by savings at the gas pump.”

As it is, everything is still up for debate. And in the mean time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be examining their proposal (given to automakers at the White House) more closely.

Similarly, the opposed auto industry stakeholders are crunching their counter-proposals to further justify why the standard should be lower.

In September NHTSA and the EPA will issue a definitive standard for automakers to meet.

This will be followed by many months of comment gathering and counter proposals from stakeholders including industry, environmental and safety advocates, as well as the public.

By July 2012, new CAFE regulations for 2017-2025 are due to be in place, giving automakers five years to figure out how they will meet them from 2017 onward.

No one knows how this will shake out, but it would at least appear the case for more EVs and hybrids could become much stronger.

Source: GM-Volt, PRI


  • shopa

    Gordon Murray, the famous British auto designer, has stated that city cars should have different crash energy absorption parameters from highway cars. See his remarks at:

    http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/1804209/designer-calls-urban-eco-car-legislation

    I have a US patent for a system where a single vehicle can optimally absorb energy in low speed AND high speed crashes.

    The invention can make small, energy efficient cars much safer in collisions.

    My invention will make it easier to get the US government and auto makers to choose a higher mpg goal for 2025. Please help me.

    My website is http://www.safersmallcars.com

  • Charles

    Caution geek post:

    I plotted the CAFE MPG values versus the EPA sticker MPG values of cars that get between 36 to 50 MPG EPA sticker MPGs (Prius through Smart for 2011 model years). For those values to calculate EPA sticker MPG values (Y) you take the CAFE MPG values (X) and do the following:

    Y = 0.6502 * X + 3.7907

    The R squared value is a good 0.9829.

    So 56.2 CAFE MPGs works out to be 40.3 EPA sticker MPGs.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    The big autos will always be against higher CAFE… Short term thinking and planning is what gets looked at and rewarded in this economic system….

    MrEnergyCzar

  • Yegor

    “New CAFE standards could lead to new hybrids and EVs”

    Not “could” but definitely “will” lead to new hybrids and EVs!!!

    Look at page 7 of this U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION document. Most auto manufactures are already on the edge of meeting CAFE requirements for 2011. There is no question that they will have to produce new hybrids and EVs to be able to meet new much higher CAFE requirements.

  • Yegor

    Sorry, here is the link to the document (Look at page 7 of this U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION document)

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/rulemaking/pdf/cafe/2011_Summary_Report.pdf

  • Capt. Concernicus

    I love this statemtent in the above article:

    “So you can design and build an auto that has this incredible technology on it, but if no one can afford to purchase it, the vehicle just sits there on the sales lot,” said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the industry group Auto Alliance.”

    I guess good ole Wade hasn’t been informed about the 1,000,000 Prius owners in the U.S. and the 3,000,000 Prius owners worldwide. These cars get fantastic fuel economy and they’re not unattainable for the average American (again 1,000,000 sold in the U.S. alone), but yet Wade Newton makes you think that it’s virtually impossible for any average American to afford one.

    If a Prius at $25,000 is too expensive then step into a Honda Insight. You sacrafice a little bit of room, a little bit of power and a little bit of fuel economy, but you get a car that gets better gas mileage than 90% of the other cars out there.

    I have a 2nd gen Prius and it’s averaging 50.3 mpg and going up.

  • Orphancarguy

    …or just buy a diesel car. My very used 03 Jetta wagon has averaged just under 50 US mpg/62 mpg Imperial in the last two months 2000 miles/3200 km of driving under all conditions, including sometimes towing a trailer. Hypermiling not required, although sensible driving helps.

    Wish we were getting the new super clean 3 cylinder turbodiesels (and diesel-electric hybrids) over here. VW ‘s Bluemotion Polo is such a car-exceeds the 2025 standards right now. 53.8 city, 72.9 highway, and 64.6 combined US mpg, using the US/Canada ready “CR” motor systems as found in the existing US/Canada VW/Audi cars sold right now–just a bit smaller, and with 3 instead of 4 cylinders. ie, the 3 has 1.2 L, versus the 4 1.6 L, while in North America they only offer the larger 2.0 L 4 cylinder

  • Anonymous

    It’s a lie. Obsolete soot-belching diesels nowhere near to the claimed 50 mpg US. See for yourself:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySR0flj6QnQ

    Diesel is a dead-end.

  • James Davis

    I agree with you, “Anonymous”, “diesel is a dead-end” and if the auto manufacturers do not want to adhere to the new MPG standards, then they should start mass producing electric cars. With an electric car, you do not have to even think about the MPG.

  • Anonymous

    This is what L A Times says this week: ”To boost future mileage, carmakers are likely to rely on today’s advanced technology”
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-fuel-efficiency-20110728,0,4129938.story

  • Steven Smart

    Good point – a diesel car is a legitimate alternative. I get massive fuel economy with my VW diesel hatch, saves money and uses less fuel.

    - Steve

  • jhon

    Nice Post…i think they should make electricity Car ?

    jhon

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