When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published an initial draft of the new fuel economy rules this spring, they gave automakers and other interested parties until July 1 to comment before finalizing the rules. That comment period is now over and GM and others have responded. Under the energy bill that was passed in December 2007, NHTSA is supposed to factor in what is technically feasible as well as what kinds of vehicles are expected to be on the market in setting the standards. If large numbers of plug-in vehicles are available they can set the standards higher. In GM's comments, the automaker told NHTSA that plug-in hybrids and extended range electrics will be available by the middle of the next decade but the agency shouldn't expect enough of them to be available to make a major impact on fleet average mileage. GM is currently only forecasting production of 10,000 Volts in 2011, rising to 60,000 the following year. Similarly, the plug-in hybrid Saturn Vue will likely only have limited availability at first. Regardless of what automakers and NHTSA want, if gas prices don't subside, the standards may be a moot point as the market may supersede them.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]

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