Compromise means that no one walks away from the table happy, but no one walks away really pissed off, either. Such is the case with the newly agreed upon CAFE standards for 2025: no one’s really happy with them, but no one found them overly objectionable, either. The EPA, and the Obama administration, had initially pushed for a standard of 62 mpg before agreeing to back off to 56.2 mpg. Although it’s really splitting hairs, the administration and the automakers agreed on a target of 54.5 mpg.
So what does that really mean? It’s hard to say, since automakers will get credit for things like using environmentally-friendly air conditioning systems and building electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. Larger trucks are excluded from consideration, and the plan has a “review step” in 2020, so if technology hasn’t yet caught up with legislation, implementation could be further delayed.
It’s also worth noting that a CAFE-mandated fuel economy of 54.5 mpg isn’t the same as an EPA fuel economy label of 54.5 mpg. I’ve yet to see any tangible math converting the two values, but I know this: it’s not as bad as critics think it is.
The good news is that even the California Air Resources Board agreed to the new standard. Until the measure was passed, there was some reason for concern that California would shoot down the new standard as not rigid enough, which would have required automakers to build cars just for California (or, alternatively, not offer their products for sale in the Golden State). All sides seem happy for now, but let’s see how things shape up as we begin transitioning into significantly more restrictive fuel economy requirements in 2017.