Feds and California Doing Tests to Prepare to Review 54.5 mpg CAFE Goal

Posted by at 4:23 pm on April 18, 2016


Federal regulators with out fanfare are gathering data, running simulations and publishing report after report. This summer, a two-year, $35 million investigation by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will spark a long-simmering debate about the future of green cars in the U.S.

Automakers and environmental groups are watching closely as the agencies assemble an argument for maintaining or adjusting federal fuel economy targets. This midterm review is part of the deal finalized in 2012 to double the U.S. fleet’s average fuel economy from that of 2008.

The 2025 model year goal calls for a 54.5 mpg fleetwide average — or an adjusted real-world average of about 40 mpg on Monroney stickers. The review promises to be tense as gasoline prices remain low, consumers turn away from green cars and costs of new technology stack up. The feds’ analysis will affect automakers’ product strategies for a decade.

In June, the EPA, NHTSA and the California Air Resources Board will publish a report outlining key factors for the midterm review. This will be followed by discussions, a proposed rule in 2017 and a final decision by April 1, 2018.

Automakers have a cornucopia of green options that include lightweighting, downsizing engines and electrification to boost fuel economy, so the question isn’t if they can rise to the challenge, but how?

Curbing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks — which generally reflects lower fuel use — is a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s plan to tackle climate change. The stair-step approach bases mpg standards on vehicle size and gradually raises fuel economy targets. The midterm review lets regulators assess technological progress, costs and market acceptance.

Auto executives and regulators have wildly divergent viewpoints.

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