• Apr 22, 2008
Last December, President Bush signed a new energy bill into law that requires automakers to achieve a Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of 35 mpg by 2020. This historic stiffening of CAFE standards set a lofty goal, but left plenty of time to get there and new standards of any kind won't begin until the 2011 model year. Today, which happens to be Earth Day, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters laid out the first set of new CAFE rules that will be implemented for passenger vehicles and light trucks from 2011 through 2015.

The first step on the path to 35 mpg by 2020 will be increases of 4.5% in CAFE standards for passenger vehicles and light trucks over the five-year period spanning 2011 and 2015. This means that standards for passenger vehicles will rise from the current 27.5 mpg to 35.7 mpg by 2015, while light trucks will go from 23.5 mpg to 28.6 mpg. The NHTSA claims the new interim standards will save 55 billion gallons of gasoline and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 521 million metric tons. They also claim that drivers will save $100 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of vehicles that fall under the rule.

We decided to reach out to the Big 3 automakers in the U.S. to ask for a comment, and both Ford and Chrysler are keeping mum until they've had a chance to read over the new rules. General Motors, meanwhile, already released a statement reiterating what it said last December, which is that it will meet the new standards despite how tough they are.

Automakers are also able to earn credits when they happen to exceed the CAFE standards, and can either bank those for a time when they won't meet them or even sell the credits to other automakers at a cost below what the fine would be for not meeting the standards. We've heard rumors, for instance, that Honda's sitting on a healthy pile of credits.

Now that we have an actual CAFE target for the auto industry to hit in the near term, expect to see a flurry of activity from automakers. Lithium-ion plug-in hybrids, series hybrids, diesels and all-electric cars will likely be the new technologies that help the industry meet these new interim CAFE standards by 2015, and the first change set for 2011 is not far away at all.

[Source: NHTSA]

PRESS RELEASE

Secretary Peters Proposes 25 Percent Increase in Fuel Efficiency Standards Over 5 Years for Passenger Vehicles, Light Trucks

Fuel efficiency standards for both passenger vehicles and light trucks would increase by 4.5 percent per year over the five-year period ending in 2015 – a 25 percent total improvement that exceeds the 3.3 percent baseline proposed by Congress last year – under an ambitious new proposal announced today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.

"This proposal is historically ambitious, yet achievable," Secretary Peters said. "It will help us all breathe a little easier by reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fuel consumption and making driving a little more affordable."

For passenger cars, the proposal would increase fuel economy from the current 27.5 miles per gallon to 35.7 miles per gallon by 2015. For light trucks, the proposal calls for increases from 23.5 miles per gallon in 2010 to 28.6 miles per gallon in 2015.

All told, the proposal will save nearly 55 billion gallons of fuel and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions estimated at 521 million metric tons. The plan will save America's drivers over $100 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicles covered by the rule, Secretary Peters said.

As required by Congress, the proposed rule allows for automakers to earn credits for exceeding Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards. This will serve as an incentive for companies to exceed these goals while giving manufacturers flexibility to meet the standards without compromising their economic vitality. The goal is to save fuel, not endanger jobs, Secretary Peters said.

"Looking at the fuel-efficient technologies already available, it's easy to see a not-too-distant future when cars fueled by something other than gasoline will be readily available and affordable," Secretary Peters said. "Until that time, however, we will continue to do what we can, safely and efficiently, to improve gas mileage and help consumers spend less time and less money at the pump."

Over the last six years, the Administration has twice made changes to the nation's CAFE standards, including the first since 1975 to increase mileage requirements for light trucks. Last year, President Bush called for an energy plan that goes even further by requiring attribute-based fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles. A copy of the CAFE proposal can be found at www.nhtsa.gov.


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  • 69 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      a) carbon fiber's going to get really big in the next five years as expensive cars use it for roof pillars, roofs, and maybe even floor structures (though that'll be a long way off). Lighter weight will go a long way towards better MPG, and keeping roof structures light will help compensate for the inherent lower stability of lightweight vehicles (think crosswinds, sharp turns).

      b) we *really* should start using sugar based ethanol to get food prices back down.

      c) we'll start seeing more pop-up hoods as manufacturers realize they can't meet Euro safety regulations and the need for better aerodynamics at the same time

      d) we'll definitely start seeing the return of 185 wide (and smaller) tires on family vehicles.

      e) this will spur the adoption of more fuel efficient transmissions (high-ratio automatics, DSGs, CVTs)

      any other thoughts?
        • 6 Years Ago
        http://media.gm.com/servlet/GatewayServlet?target=http://image.emerald.gm.com/gmnews/viewpressreldetail.do?domain=12&docid=45279

        Hopefully their estimate of 2mpg highway is wrong, and it turns out 1mpg city & 1mpg highway.


        Well even if there is no gain in city (unlikely in the real world) it just killed the market for the generation 0 Malibu Hybrid. [taller axle ratio & no spare wheel]

        What is with the skinny tire thing? Aerodynamics or rolling resistance?
          • 6 Years Ago
          rolling resistance - i have little doubt that i'm losing some measurable amount of fuel economy by running 205 V-rated tires on my GTI (I think) vs something skinnier and harder.

          i also think we're going to see fewer cars shaped like the Chrysler 300 and more shaped like the Avalon... or whatever qualifies as slippery in that size...
      • 6 Years Ago
      35 mpg is no big deal.
        • 6 Years Ago
        This is the stupidity of the plan, if GM can produce the Volt with the specs promised, and some how convince those at CAFE to count the time it runs on batteries as infinity miles per gallon, they'll be able to sell 4mpg battle tanks on the other end and still achieve their 35mpg average.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I agree, 35 mpg average should not be a problem for any company.

        I drive a 3550lb Audi A4 2.0T Quattro chipped to 250hp and 300 ft-lb of torque. I get ~35 mpg on every trip I take. I still get ~27 around town, even if I play around a bit. Shave a little weight, tune back the power, skinnier tires(, keep your right foot off the floor), and you have 35 mpg average. My average mpg for the last 4k miles was 31.1 mpg, so I'm not that far off now.

        I find it hard to believe that all small cars with less than 150hp aren't getting 35 mpg. A nice small direct injected turbo should yield plenty of power and 35mpg average.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's 35 mpg AVERAGE. If you can find a way for a company to accomplish that over a full line of cars of various sizes, then I suggest you send your resume to any auto company.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ford and Chrysler stayed mum because they might not even be around in 2035. :-)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Chrysler i don know, but according to some financial analyst ford is doing better than GM.Sorry to burst your bubble champ.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Actually there is concern that the FourTwo does NOT do well with side impacts.

      Cars are plenty "safe enough" the gov't needs to stop mandating more safety features. The best safety improvement is to take the stupid idiots out from behind the wheel.

      The problem people see with with more taxes is that THEY may not get to utilize the infrstructure they paid for. Rail is VERY expensive to build and maintain. Since we in the US have far greater distances between cities, intercity rail is not really feasible. The ONLY place in the US that Amtrak is profitable is the northeast corridore.

      Modern class 8 trucks get about 7mpg when loaded (80,000 lbs). For a bit of perspective, if your 4000 lb sedan was that efficient (weight to mileage ratio) you'd be getting 140mpg.

      There is one true DE hybrid locomotive that is becoming widely popular as a yard switcher. It is known as the Green Goat, and is made by Railpower, Inc. of Vancouver. 90% emmissions reduction, 70% fuel savings. the US Army, Santa Fe, and BNSF are using them to great effect.

      As for cars, I think you will see more things like dual clutch transmissions, aluminum body structure (like the 09 Ram - aluminum roof and hood, lighter rear suspension) more carbon fiber (in higher end cars). I think as long as you can make a good turbo 4 you will always have performance cars. As much as I like V8s, I know that 0-60 really isn't that important for daily driver. My truck does 0-60 in 9 seconds and it's plenty quick enough to merge in to highway traffic. I think mileage in trucks could go up quickly if the auto makers weren't in this pissing match to make the biggest truck. I read an article once that said the 94-01 Ram was the most aerodynamic truck ever. Everything since has been larger, heavier, blockier. Current 1/2 ton trucks are far larger than were 15 years ago.
      • 6 Years Ago
      OK this comment system is really messed up.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Well, Prius gets 5 stars government crash test rating, it has smaller (1.5L ICE) and still get about 50 MPG.

      I think, speed limits ought to be lowered back to 55 MPH therefore, crash tests don't need to be tested at higher speeds.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The speed limit here (Long Island) IS 55 mph.

        I don't think this will affect performance much (if at all) because if we can get 18 mpg over all from something that would have displaced 427 CI back in the day, we can get 35 overall from an engine that puts out less than a bottle of coke.
        • 6 Years Ago
        No, the problem is the artificially low speed limits. [for the purpose of 'revenue' generation]

        It puts people out of touch with reality.
        Set a national speed limit of 100mph daytime / 80mph night (crappy US headlights)

        People need to be reconnected to their engines/transmissions.
        Way too much displacement, not enough transmission.
        Where is the VQ25 V6 for the: Z, G sedan, coupe
        Why did GM drop the 2.8 V6 from the CTS?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Government Regulation...pff..
      You wackos can't make me save gas if I don't want to. My threat still stands: If this isn't repealed before it goes into effect, I'm putting a carburetor on every car I own (and a really lumpy cam).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Welcome back to the dullness of the 1970s.
      • 6 Years Ago
      So much for the free market and consumer driven economy.

      The cost of all of this will be passed on to us whether you believe it or not and whether we like it or not.

      How about instead of imposing silly regulations that are punitive to the auto industry and our home businesses why don't they just not tax family sedans or vehicles that achieve better than 25mpg?

      Why don't they invest in actual public transit for cities or high speed trains for the countryside?
        • 6 Years Ago
        TriShield,

        The flaw in your logic is that it makes perfect sense.

        However, when you consider that an elected official is not allowed to do anything that the voters as a general body see as detrimental to them in the near term (i.e. taxes to improve infrastructure or taxes on fuel) they will never ruin their chance at re-election by making a gutsy move.

        Meanwhile, they continue to make idiotic laws aimed at pleasing the masses of morons who don't bother to take the time to research and understand any topic.

        The general pubic doesn't understand that by upgrading the infrastructure to accomodate all the vehciles on the road, paying construction crews to get a job done quickly instead of cheaply or moving closer to work or adding public transportation, they will have more money in their pockets in the long run. No, they see gas prices go up and demand that cars get more economical.

        Their saviour elected officials swoop in and force the auto industry to comply. Meanwhile, they are driving a car half the size they used to (that cost them more) 50 miles to work each day in gridlock traffic past many construction zones that have been so for a year or more and applauding the government for a job well done.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm very curious about how the threshold for the Gas Guzzler Tax is affected and whether current borderline avoiders of that tax (such as the Corvette ZO6 and Lexus IS F) will become subject to the Guzzler Tax.
        • 6 Years Ago
        curse this stupid broken broken BROKEN comment system! I should have known it was going to do that. Non sequitur, move along.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow.. this government douchebaggery is a complete farce! Buy and sell credits? This is not a game of monopoly, you scumbags.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What does this mean for car companies like Ferrari and Lamborghini? There is no way their cars will ever meet these rules.
        • 6 Years Ago
        pacman,

        just because you cant or wont ever be able to doesnt mean others should suffer. entrepreneurs, lawyers, and doctors (!!!) among other professions also pull enough to purchase a $150k+ car.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Either they do not apply to the companies becuase they sell so few cars or the companies just pay fines like BMW and Mercedes do.
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