Poll: American Voters Support 60 MPG Average By 2025

The Mellman Group, a leading Washington, D.C.-based pollster, today released the results of a poll showing that U.S. voters overwhelmingly support an ambitious increase in fuel economy standards by 2025.

The high-level findings:

  • 74% favor a federal standard requiring the auto industry to meet a 60 mpg fleetwide average.
  • 83% favor paying an additional $3,000 for a vehicle in 2025 if they would then save $3,000 in gasoline costs within four years of purchasing the vehicle.
  • 75% of respondents felt that increasing average mpg for vehicles would either create new American jobs or have no affect on jobs.
  • 86% of respondents felt that the technology needed to achieve a 60 mpg standard already exists or could be developed with a serious effort.

The national random telephone poll of 1,000 likely voters has a margin of error of 3.1 percent. The poll was commissioned by a coalition of environmental groups. See complete results of the poll (PDF: 80kb).

Draft of 2025 Rules Coming Due

The point of the poll was not to predict consumer-buying patterns, but to understand how voters would respond to new rules covering fuel efficiency targets for vehicle model years 2017 through 2025. The Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency are working to deliver a “Notice of Intent” on fuel efficiency targets by the end of this month.

Exactly one year ago today, President Obama released a proposed 1,227-page set of regulations for implementing standards requiring cars to average 35.5 mpg by 2016.

In May 2010, the 35.5 mpg target by 2016 went into effect. Speaking at a White House Rose Garden ceremony to announce the 2016 goal, President Obama said, “Consumers pay less for fuel, which means less money going overseas and more money to save or spend here at home. The economy as a whole runs more efficiently by using less oil and producing less pollution.” The ceremony was attended by auto executives, labor leaders, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 gives the Administration the ability to set 2017 – 2025 standards according to what is a “maximum feasible level.”

Defining Maximum Feasibility

The sponsoring environmental groups—including Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment America, the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists—have already established from a technical perspective that 60 mpg is feasible by 2025. NRDC, for example, says that carmakers would simply have to better incorporate existing fuel-saving technologies into their product lines. The group says that by 2025 a mix of 30 percent conventional gas cars, 15 percent electric vehicles and 55 percent hybrids would be sufficient to reach the standard.

The next question is if the voting public would support 60 mpg as a feasible target. The poll indicates the answer is unequivocally yes.

“60 mpg doesn’t sound like a crazy number to the public. They believe the auto companies have the technology to achieve it,” said Aaron Huertas, spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an interview with HybridCars.com. The poll indicates that the vast majority of American believe that 60 mpg is not only feasible, but would make domestic car companies more competitive, produce more jobs for U.S. workers, reduce national dependence on foreign oil, and improve the environment.

The environmental organizations see increased fuel economy as one of the biggest potential wins for climate change, according to Huertas. “It’s a bright spot in the environmental agenda,” he said.

The environmental organizations developed their campaign—including the poll, technical support work and the go60mpg.org website—to build the case for aggressive targets achieved by existing technologies and backed by public demand. In the next two weeks or so, administrators from the EPA and DOT will be preparing their notice of intent for the 2017 to 2025 mpg targets. “We hope they’re listening to us,” Huertas said.


  • Yegor

    What is the point of 60 MPG average if manufactures choose rather to pay a really insignificant penalty instead of obeying it?

    Ford right now actually does not meet CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements.
    CAFE requirement for light trucks and SUV for 2010 year is 23.5 MPG.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_Average_Fuel_Economy

    So far Ford sales this year:
    Ford Trucks: 469,734. Most of it F-series that have at best average MPG of 17.
    Ford SUV and Crossovers: 290,783. The best of it is Ford Escape with average 23 MPG (128,507). Ford Edge is at best average 20 MPG (74,320).
    http://media.ford.com/images/10031/August10sales.pdf
    So Ford light trucks average MPG is around 19 MPG only! It is 4.5 MPG below CAFE standard!

    Let’s see how much penalty Ford will pay. $5.50 USD per 0.1 mpg under the standard (see CAFE link above). It is $247.5 per truck. Guys this amount is ridiculous! What is $247.5 per $22,000 truck. No wonder that as of model year 2006, Chrysler and Volkswagen choose to pay penalty instead of obeying. Now Ford chose to do the same – it is more profitable! CAFE standards are useless – the market is self regulating right now – the only reason people are not buying bigger cars and trucks they fear the potential of higher gas prices.

    To make companies to obey the CAFE standards penalty should be at least 20 times more!

  • Anonymous

    The automotive manufacturers should be pressed harder to support 60mpg by 2020.

  • Yegor

    Apparently, most manufactures do easily meet CAFE standards right now (even Chrysler) because “The numbers on the window sticker and the ones reported to the government are “entirely separate,” NHTSA spokesman Eric Bolton said. City and highway mpg figures come from the EPA’s lab tests, with adjustments to replicate real-world conditions. CAFE figures, meanwhile, are derived using different testing procedures and have various incentives built in.”

    http://www.cars.com/go/advice/Story.jsp?section=fuel&story=cafe&subject=fuelList

    So all these Ford F-series and Chevrolet Silverado gas guzzlers do easily pass through the standards. Windows sticker 19 MPG is in reality 24.7 MPG for government :(

    Still the penalties are so small I do not see the reason why CAFE standards could be a big deal for manufactures? For publicity or just in a case?

  • Yegor

    2009 Honda Passenger Cars CAFE rating was 35.9 MPG (with very few Hybrids sold) when the government requirement was 27.5 MPG only. Honda can keep their cars without change to be able to meet 2016 35.5 MPG CAFE requirement.
    I wonder how Prius is rated in CAFE “entirely separate” ratings. If 19 MPG sticker is 24.7 MPG for CAFE. It is 30% higher then 50 MPG Prius is probably 65 MPG in CAFE numbers. In this case 2020 goal of CAFE 60 MPG looks pretty small.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    A better, easier, faster way is to raise the gas tax 20 cents per year and watch what happens after 2016….. think Europe folks…

  • Charles

    Yegor wonder no more;

    According to the EPA (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/download.shtml) the 2010 Prius has a combined CAFE MPG of 70.89 MPG. The Prius is the only gas/Diesel powered vehicle listed above 60 MPG. The Civic Hybird, Insight, CR-Z (automatic only) and Fusion Hybrid are above 50 CAFE MPG. The highest non-hybrid is the Smart Fortwo at 49.5. The highest Diesels are the VWs and Audi A3 all at 46.2. Cars that surprised me are the non-hybrid Ford Fusion S and Altima, both at just over 35.

    Most of the above data is from 2010, and a bit from 2011.

  • Yegor

    Charles,
    Thank you! Very interesting info.

  • 55mpg

    I also used to think that Gas tax is the only way to go. But the more I think about it, the less I support a gas tax. A better approach is what the Government is doing right now, which is requiring manufactures to meet higher MPGs on new vehicles. Having said that I am not suggesting that the manufactures should be allowed to bypass the CAFE standards. If they pass a law that law must be fully implemented in letter and spirit.

    If they raise Gas tax, the impact will be so quick most of the folks will have no way to deal with it. If new vehicles are coming with higher MPGs, then the impact is gradual, but most importantly, the impact is on the folks who can afford a new car in the first place. Slowly infrastructure will get developed to support a society which uses less oil.

    Comparison to Europe is not an apple to apple comparison due to geographical differences.

  • 100 mpg

    I don’t understand why so low at 60 mpg? The prius comes very close to it. Our regular gasoline vehicles already get 42 mpg. My wife owned a 1999 Nissan sentra, she gets 48 mpg average, I use to own a 1996 Toyota corrolla that got 42 mpg average. I now own a 2004 Honda accord that can get 38 mpg average. so, these pathetic hybrid vehicles claiming 40+ mpg is not impressive at all. We should be at 100 mpg by now.

  • Yegor

    I have even more respect for Toyota now. Their 2009 Passenger Cars average fuel economy was 37 MPG when CAFE required 27.5 MPG only. I am pretty sure that Toyota subsidizes Prius a little bit. So this means that Toyota subsidizes Prius totally on its own initiative. Yes, it gives it a great “green” public image but still. One of the reasons my most recent car is Toyota is because of Toyota great Hybrids achievements. Kudos to Toyota!

  • veek

    Good article, but the headline is sort of like saying “American voters support losing excess weight.”

    I am sure “American voters” eagerly support 60 mpg cars — for somebody else to buy.

    What “American voters” actually buy for themselves, though, is best reflected by the sales data, and that indicates trucks, SUV’s or “crossovers,” cars with considerable power and luxury, and large or supposedly mid-sized cars that get actual mileage in the 20′s. The only way these kinds of vehicles will get a collective 60 real-world mpg is if we repealed the laws of physics, measured their mileage going down a steep hill, made them extremely expensive, or used voodoo mathematics. “American voters” have consistently demanded such vehicles for many years and have just as eagerly ignored high-mileage cars. 60 mpg cars??? I’m dubious. There’s a vast and amusing disconnect here.

    Just because “American voters” or “the public” theoretically support some goal is effectively meaningless unless their actions back up that support, and unless someone can actually deliver on those ideals (and that would be the engineers, not the politicians in the picture trying to take credit).

  • Anonymous

    veek, totally agree with you. usually people supports an idea until it’s time for real action. people like to talk but it takes a lot to make them walk the talk

  • Gulsah @ Hertz

    So the good news is that you don’t have to wait until 2025 to get that 62mpg car. You can rent the 100 mile range cars (EV) from Hertz in couple of months. Check out our Facebook Fan page for more information on Hertz Electric Vehicles and other gas+electric combination rental car roll-out plans. Join the conversation now with all other 5K Hertz fans at http://www.facebook.com/Hertz – Gulsah @ Hertz

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