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Is A Mandatory 62 MPG Fuel Economy Coming?

Posted in auto industry, Environment, General, News, Rants & Raves by Kurt Ernst | May 15th, 2011 | 13 Responses |

Can cars like the Camaro ZL1 even exist under propsed standards? Image: © GM Corp.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is defined as “the sales weighted average fuel economy, expressed in mpg, of a manufacturer’s fleet of passenger cars or light trucks with a GVWR of 8,500 pounds or less.” From 1990 thorough 2010, the CAFE standard for passenger cars has been fixed at 27.5 mpg; over those 20 years, cars have actually gotten heavier, thanks in part to safety components such as airbags, high strength steel, and side door beams, but average fuel economy has stayed about the same. In 2007, the Bush administration approved new CAFE standards, with the intent of reducing U.S dependence on foreign oil; since that time, environmental groups and pollution-sensitive states have latched onto the “better fuel economy” bandwagon like a pit bull on a chihuahua basted with steak sauce. The Obama administration has taken the fuel economy standard from the extreme of 35 mpg by 2020 proposed under Bush to the absurd, which is as high as 62 mpg by 2025.

Fuel economy champions, such as democratic senator Dianne Feinstein of California, want to see a six percent increase in fuel economy per year, starting in 2017. Under their draconian view of the auto industry, manufacturers would need to achieve a 62 mpg fuel economy average by 2025, which is just 14 years away. Doing so requires electric vehicles to account for 14% of new vehicles sold, yet the EV technology available today (and in the foreseeable future) greatly restricts EV functionality compared to conventional automobiles. Even the best case scenario for enthusiasts projects a CAFE standard of 47 mpg by 2025, which doesn’t bode well for performance automobiles.

An auto industry trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is petitioning the current administration for standards based on analysis, not theoretical numbers pulled from the ether by politicians with no technical knowledge of automotive engineering. AAM also disputes the senator’s claim that 62 mpg cars would only increase in cost by $3,500, and counters with their own numbers showing an industry wide sales decline of 14 percent should the 62 mpg standard be implemented. The organization also cites the potential loss of nearly 250,000 industry jobs, something that proponents of the stricter standards seem to gloss over.

Nothing has been decided yet, but if you love cars and driving it may be a very good time to become politically active. Mandating technology that doesn’t yet exist (at least in a cost-effective manner) seems like a bad way to set public policy, but if enthusiasts don’t speak up, that’s exactly what will happen. If we’re all forced to drive boring electric pods in fifteen years, we’ll have no one but ourselves to blame.

Source: Detroit News, via Left Lane News

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13 Responses

  1. Anthony says:

    I don’t even see many electric cars selling in general in the future. The charging method is nearly impossible with NYC. Are people supposed to throw 100ft extension cord out there 3rd story window and charge there car in the street..? What if the plug falls out, can’t get to work? I think the Camaro body will stay, but the performance will never be the same.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Anthony, without government interference, electric cars will be slow to increase in market share. Hybrids traditionally haven’t sold well (Toyota Prius excepted), yet manufacturers are cranking out more and more hybrid models each year to meet tightening CAFE regulations. In the not-too-distant future, what you want to buy and what the government allows you to buy may be two distinctly different things. If you’re a performance car guy like me, it’s time to be afraid. Very afraid.

      • Anthony says:

        Do you know how in movies that portray the future, everyone has the same looking car in different colors? (Minority report-http://www.seriouswheels.com/cars/top-Lexus-Concept-Minority-Report.htm) That is kinda what we are heading for…except maybe there will be a van/jeep version, etc but we won’t have the variety we have today. I don’t vote but if and when I ever start I would never vote democrat because they like to pass legislation that makes Gov’t bigger and more hands on every aspect of our lives. Ever watch the movie, “The dilemma” it’s funny but also a huge part of the movie involves electric engines in performance cars.

  2. I think the Cafe regulations can only be applied to American cars, so people can still buy foreign cars like BMW or Benz. Mercedes E Class has a mpg of around 26 mpg on the freeway I think. Also, people can’t have their own electric charging station in or next to their house if they rent an apartment. Not everyone is a homeowner.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      UCR, the CAFE requirements apply to any automaker who sells cars in the United States. In other words, Ferrari and Lamborghini are screwed unless they come up with a new model line.

  3. PapayaSF says:

    The post is incorrect: the 2009 change to the CAFE standards was during the Obama administration.

  4. Jimmy says:

    As a previous poster said, CAFE standards were dramatically increased in 2009 by the Obama Administration. There were CAFE standards agreed upon in 2007, I think, that went into effect in 2009. But the Obama CAFE standards are far harsher and don’t reflect the realities of building safe cars people want to buy at an affordable price. Here’s an article with more information:

    http://environment.about.com/od/environmentallawpolicy/a/obama-sets-new-fuel-efficiency-standards.htm

  5. Kurt Ernst says:

    PapayaSF and Jimmy, you are both correct and I thank you for catching that. I should have said that Bush approved a 35 mpg standard in 2007, to be implemented by 2020. Under the Obama administration, the new standard is a fleetwide average of 35.5 mpg (39 mpg for cars, 30 mpg for light trucks) by 2016.

    I can tell you that automakers are terrified of the new regulations, which is one reason you’re seeing the push towards hybrid vehicles and EVs. With the exception of a few models (like the Toyota Prius), there’s one problem: most Americans don’t want a hybrid, and electric cars are not a practical solution for most of us. The only certainty is this: the future is pretty damn uncertain.

  6. PapayaSF says:

    My solution to the CAFE standards problem: a law that says no member of Congress can own, lease, rent, or use a government-provided vehicle that gets less mileage than the CAFE standard. When I see Pelosi et al. riding around in Chevy Aveos, I’ll believe they’re serious about global warming.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Papaya, good luck with that. It’s like the gun control debate: the politicians who are most in favor of tightening gun laws are typically the ones with armed security. Do you think that Mike Bloomberg, NY mayor and rabid-anti-gun spokesman, is ever without a bodyguard in public? How about Chicago’s former mayor, Richard Daly (who probably has some unfriendly persuasion in his nightstand drawer)?

  7. J D Stadler says:

    Well that is a terribly depressing post. It’s nice to see that people in DC are apparently smoking some massive crack rocks and/or are delusional. Great idea guys – make decisions without one iota of factual data or cost/benefit analysis to back it up.

  8. PFULMTL says:

    I was fine with cars coming out with 40 MPG haha.

  9. wokeupthismorning100 says:

    I had a Porsche 911 Carrera S on my wish list, but i’m going to have to make do with a plug in Prius