In May, President Obama announced new tougher fuel economy standards to take effect in 2012. Yesterday, his administration released the proposed 1,227-page set of regulations for implementing the standards, which require cars to average 35.5 mpg by 2016.
The regulations explicitly state that car companies can meet the new standards largely by using existing technologies: “These include improvements to engines, transmissions and tires; increased use of start-stop technology; improvements in air-conditioning system; increased use of hybrid and other advanced technologies; and the initial commercialization of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.”
As usual, the devil is in the details. For example:
- Automakers would be allowed to continue building and importing all classes of vehicles, from the smallest sub-compacts to the largest SUVs. (See CAFE Footprint Formula Explained.)
- Under the regulations, automakers will continue to be able to claim mpg credits—amounting to a reduction of 1 to 1.5 miles per gallon if fully employed—by selling so-called flex-fuel vehicles capable of using a blend of gasoline and ethanol.
- Automakers selling fewer than 400,000 vehicles in the United States—including Mercedes, BMW, Subaru and Volkswagen—would be allowed to meet a weaker standard.
The regulations now go through a 60-day public comment period. The US Chamber of Commerce and a group of automakers are expected to challenge the rules in court.