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First there was 62 miles per gallon, then 56.2 mpg, then 54.5 mpg, and now we could be looking at 40 mpg for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) in 2025. What's that you say, you thought 54.5 was the official number? That's true, but that official target has a lot of federal incentive credits built into it, and these credits could lower real-world mpg levels to around the 40 mpg mark, according to the EPA and environmental groups.

As reported by Automotive News, there are several areas where automotive manufacturers can gain credits. The first is for pure electric, fuel-cell and plug-in vehicles. Starting in 2017, for example, EVs and fuel-cell cars would be counted as two vehicles with zero emissions, with a gradual phase down to 1.5 in 2021. Plug-ins would go from 1.6 to 1.3 in the same time period. Next, full-sized pickups would get a credit of between 10 and 20 grams of CO2 per mile for employing a mild to strong hybrid setup. Third, using more advanced air-conditioners and refrigerants that reduce hydrofluorocarbon emissions could result in a 18.8 to 24.4 grams per mile credit for cars and trucks, respectively. Finally, using advanced technologies like active grille shutters, high-efficiency alternators and lights, and start-stop among others would get credits of between less than one gram per mile to five grams per mile for each vehicle.

We have no doubt automakers will be using these credits to, in essence, "game the system" into getting lower CO2 emissions (and hence fuel economy) than what the vehicles actually produce. It's not that these technologies don't improve fuel economy – they do – just not as much as a 54.5 mpg standard makes it sound.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is the problem with incentives. Then again, if there were no incentives it could lead to fewer battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles (maybe in 2015-2030) on the market. There is no easy way around it, but we could do it with more electrification of our transportation. Much easier move from oil/coal to alternative "fuels" than with combustion engine.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sure, there will be new, stricter standards, but we still have to be careful about them. Take Germany for example, they passed a law where the environmental classification of vehicles will now be proportionate to their size. So yes, it could be fair, but a large vehicle with high emissions could get better ratings than a small one with lower ones. Some call it greenwash and say companies will only build bigger cars to avoid the eco-friendly hassle and get good ratings. What do you think? http://ecomobility.tv/forums/topic/a-porsche-and-a-city-car-same-carbon-footprint
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well, I guess that's it then. I don't need to see what's actually going to happen. This program is a failure.
      fred schumacher
      • 3 Years Ago
      The most important thing is that CAFE has doubled with hardly a squeak, whereas the industry and Congress fought even tiny changes for decades. Even the big three now have CEOs who are not opposed to this change. This is absolutely huge and totally unexpected by me, considering the disastrous state of American politics.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Somehow I knew there were loopholes. Gaming the system is the correct term.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      and peak oil will grant an asswhopping
      • 3 Years Ago
      First of all the real world fuel economy is always less than CAFE by about 20%. So 54.5 mpg CAFE is roughly 43.6 mpg real world. This is because the CAFE number is based on a test and does not properly reflect the fuel economy in the real world. Now that just leaves 3.6 mpg in the "game the system" category. Start/stop, high efficiency alternators, and other technologies are not reflected in the test. The credits are in place because those technologies make a difference in the real world even if it is not reflected in the test. Maybe we can finally get some start/stop technology in the US. As for refrigerant credits, well that's an EPA thing. The EPA cares about things like global warming and CO2 not fuel economy. Since refrigerants have a relatively high global warming potential, independent of fuel economy, using low global warming potential refrigerants is a good thing in their opinion. If the automakers sell enough EVs and Fuel cells to take advantage of the credits then we'll be seeing a lot of them. The harmonic mean used to calculate fuel economy skews toward low fuel economy vehicles. For example, the harmonic mean of 10 and 90 is 18 (not 50). You have to sell a lot of EVs, PHEVs and fuel cells to make up for the low fuel economy vehicles. Full sized pickup need a market penetration of 10 to 80% hybridization to take effect. If they get that large of a market share in full sized trucks I'd be surprised. If the automakers can get this credit they will be selling a ton of HEV full sized trucks. Will there be some gaming of the system? Sure, but overall we will see significantly more fuel efficient vehicles. We will have the option to buy them. It will be up to the consumer to purchase them.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Thank you for this awesome explanation!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      40mpg combined as a fleet average is a huge step up from the 21 we have right now.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm glad to see EVs and hydrogen vehicles being treated equally.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Why, they really aren't equal at all. Hydrogen is an inefficient fantasy while EV's are practical and efficient, right now.