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EPA annual report on CO2, fuel economy and technology trends finds 2012 heading for all-time best; rapid adoption of new technologies

Adjusted CO2 emissions and adjusted fuel economy, MY 1975-2011. Source: EPA. Click to enlarge.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report summarizing key trends in carbon dioxide emissions, fuel economy, and CO2- and fuel economy-related technology for gasoline- and diesel-fueled personal vehicles sold in the United States, from model years (MY) 1975 through 2012.

Data for MY 2011 are final; data for MY 2012 are preliminary and based on projected vehicle production values provided to EPA by manufacturers. The report finds that CO2 emissions rates and fuel economy values reflect a very favorable multi-year trend beginning in MY 2005. The fleet-wide average real world MY 2011 personal vehicle CO2 emissions value is 398 g/mi and average fuel economy is 22.4 mpg (10.5 l/100 km), both slightly worse relative to MY 2010. Preliminary projections for MY 2012 are 374 g/mi CO2 emissions and 23.8 mpg (9.9 l/100 km), which, if realized, would be all-time records and amongst the largest annual improvements since 1975.

Most CO2 emissions and fuel economy values in this report have been adjusted to reflect “real world” consumer performance and therefore are not comparable to CO2 emissions and fuel economy standards.

EPA suggests that the reduction in MY 2011 car and car parts production in Japan in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters “almost certainly” contributed to both the apparent slight worsening in MY 2011 and the large projected improvement in MY 2012. EPA estimates that the fleet-wide average MY 2011 CO2 emissions and fuel economy values would likely have been similar to or slightly better than MY 2010 levels if car production from major Japan-based manufacturers had not been constrained.

Using a 5-year timeframe, CO2 emission rates have decreased by 10% and fuel economy values have increased by 11% from MY 2006-2011. Based on preliminary estimates, CO2 emission rates have decreased by 13% and fuel economy values have increased by 16% from MY 2007-2012.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Many new technologies are rapidly gaining market share. Technological innovation is a major driving force behind the recent improvements in CO2 emissions and fuel economy, and the majority of the carbon and oil savings from current vehicles is due to new gasoline vehicle technologies, EPA said.

    Changes in light-duty vehicle technology penetration share. Source: EPA. Click to enlarge.

    The use of gasoline direct injection systems has grown from essentially zero in MY 2007 to a projected 24% of the market in MY 2012. The use of turbochargers/superchargers has tripled from about 3% in MY 2007 to a projected 9% in MY 2012, while the use of cylinder deactivation has remained in the 8-9% range. Both conventional hybrids and diesel vehicles have increased market share slightly since MY 2007.

    Through 2005, the 4-speed transmission was the dominant automatic transmission. Transmissions with 6 or more speeds and continuously variable transmissions cumulatively accounted for about 25% of vehicle production in MY 2007, but are projected to reach 75% market share in MY 2012.

  • Consumers have an increasing number of high fuel economy/low CO2 vehicle choices. The number of SUV, pickup, minivan, and van models that have combined EPA label values of 20 mpg (11.8 l/100 km) or more has increased by 71%, from 38 in 2007 to 65 in 2012. There are almost 3 times more SUVs with combined labels of 25 mpg (9.4 l/100 km) or more and 6 times more cars with ratings of 30 mpg (7.8 l/100km) or more. The number of cars with 40 mpg or higher (5.9 l/100 km) labels has increased from 2 in 2007 to 15 in 2012.

  • Manufacturers are selling many vehicles today that can meet future CO2 emission targets. EPA evaluated MY 2012 vehicles against future footprint-based CO2 emission targets to determine which vehicles could meet or exceed the targets in model years 2016-2025, based on current powertrain designs and assuming improvements in air conditioner refrigerants and efficiency.

    Nearly 25% of projected MY 2012 vehicle production already meets the MY 2016 CO2 targets, or can meet these targets with the addition of expected air conditioning improvements. The bulk of this production share is accounted for by non-hybrid gasoline vehicles, although other technologies, including hybrids, electric vehicles, and diesel vehicles are also represented.

    There are about 20 vehicle models (3% of projected 2012 production) that could meet the MY 2025 CO2 targets. Vehicles meeting the MY 2025 CO2 targets solely comprise hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles. Since the MY 2025 standards are over a decade away, there’s considerable time for continued improvements in gasoline vehicle technology, EPA notes.

  • Truck market share continues to be volatile. Light trucks accounted for 42% of all light-duty vehicle production in MY 2011—a 5% increase over MY 2010. The MY 2012 light truck market share is projected to be 36%, based on pre-model year production projections by automakers, which, if realized, would return truck market share to slightly below the MY 2010 level and to the second lowest level since 1993.

    Light truck (which includes pickups, minivans/vans, and SUVs) market share has been very volatile in recent years, decreasing by 8% in MY 2009, and increasing by 4% in MY 2010 and by 5% in MY 2011. EPA suggests that three factors are at work: 1) MY 2009 was a particularly unusual year due to the serious economic recession that almost certainly led to an artificially low truck production share in that year, which then results in an apparently larger truck production share increase since MY 2009; 2) the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), commonly referred to as Cash for Clunkers resulted in 677,081 new vehicle purchases in 2009, and 3) the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear tragedies in Japan in March 2011 almost certainly decreased the supply of cars from Japan (possibly trucks as well, but likely more cars than trucks), which likely contributed to the truck share increase in MY 2011 (as well as to the projected truck share decrease in MY 2012).

  • Vehicle power is at a record high, while the vehicle weight trend is generally flat. MY 2011 vehicle weight averaged 4,127 pounds (1,872 kg), an increase of 125 pounds (57 kg) compared to MY 2010. The average car weight increased 81 pounds (36.7 kg) and truck weight increased 40 pounds (18 kg), and the remaining difference was due to higher truck market share.

    In MY 2011, the average vehicle power was 230 hp (172 kW), an increase of 16 horsepower since MY 2010. Car power increased by 10 horsepower and truck power increased by 18 horsepower, and the remaining difference was due to higher truck market share.

    Estimated MY 2011 0-to-60 acceleration time decreased to 9.4 seconds. Preliminary MY 2012 values suggest that average vehicle weight and power will both decrease, though these projections are uncertain and EPA will not have final data until next year's report. While the preliminary MY 2012 weight value is lower than all but one year since 2001, the preliminary MY 2012 power value would still be the second highest value ever, exceeded only by MY 2011.




CAFE standards have been in place since 1978.

NHTSA has the responsibility for setting and enforcing CAFE standards.

EPA is responsible for establishing fuel economy test procedures and calculation methods, and for collecting data used to determine vehicle fuel economy and manufacturer CAFE levels.


To get a clearer picture, you would want to plot the cost of oil (or gasoline).
Nontheless, it is good news.
You might ask - how far can it go - I would say, a long way.
if you plot cars such as Prius 3 and VW Golf Tdi 1.6, you can see a clear direction, and there is a load of momentum in the "up" direction for mpg.
Demand for oil from developing countries such as China and India means demand will stay high, and so prices will stay up. This will provide an incentive to keep developing more efficient cars.
This fits well with the government pressure of CAFE and worries about CO2 and global warming.
Everything is going in the same direction, so I would expect strong improvement over the next 2 decades.


Wow...the combined average mpg for cars and small-light trucks went from 22 mpg to 23.8 mpg in the last 23 years (from 1987 to 2010),

That's a miserable 0.078 mpg improvement per year or an average of about 1.0 mpg every 13 years.

At that rate, the average will reach:

1. 24.8 mpg in 2023
2. 25.8 mpg in 2036
3. 26.8 mpg in 2049
4. 27.8 mpg in 2062
5. 28.8 mpg in 2075

Oil Barons and their supporters will be very happy with that extremely slow progression?


Look at the trend from 2005 to present day- it is much better. Oil was too cheap from 1985 - 2005, hence the lack of progress (in fact, negative progress in the USA).
I get an improvement rate (for cars) of 19% in 6 years, or about 3% per annum from 2006 - 2012.

Oil Barons might have a few opinions on that, but the real question is how much of the improvements made by western cars can transfer (and how quickly) to lower cost, but huge, markets such as China and India.



The world should not rely on our new 'Moneycracies' to develop cleaner vehicles, improved batteries, electrified vehicles, much light cars, clean e-power production plants, improved health care, drug and gun controls, etc.

The guiding lights in 'Moneycracies' are quick profits and 'all means' are used to maximize the bottom line. Tax and other laws and moral values are not important because they can be bought and/or changed with enough cash or election contributions.

In our new 'Moneycracies', wealth is quickly being transferred from the 97% to the 3% and soon from the 99% to the 1%. Our new billionaires are replacing the Lords and Kings of yesterday. You could call it 'back to the past'.

Time will tell if China and India will follow in the same path or develop better ways or will we have more deeper financial recessions like in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy etc?


The world should rely on our entrepreneurs to develop cleaner vehicles, improved batteries, electrified vehicles, much light cars, clean e-power production plants.

Those who cannot make it in today's world are quick to covet the wealth of those who can and who have enough ambition and intelligence to make a lot of money.

The bottom feeders who whine about the top 5% or 3% or 1% are already typically living off the rest of us in better comfort than most in China.

The role of any worthwhile business manager is to maximize the bottom line.

The green industries differ in that the gov hands them money in the hope that they can get it together.

Tax and other laws and moral values are important but it is up to us to not install Chicago politicians who disdain such values.

Much wealth is being transferred to the very wealthy, (maybe more than in the recent past) but that is politics, not industry, that's our government.

New billionaires are not replacing the Lords and Kings of yesterday, they do not tell us what to do, they just have a lot of wealth - to do what they want- the politicians and government are the Lords and Kings of yesterday, and those who support this deserve it.

Quit envying your betters and get to work. Robin Hood is fairy tale, earn your OWN money; the worst example of greed is taking money someone else earned.

Trevor Carlson

So can anyone name just one make a model with a single valve engine? I can't think of any. Even Dodge Hemi V8 engines have at least two valves per cylinder. How can they report that only 92% market share has multi-valve engines? Unless they're trying to say that single intake/exhaust valves are not multi-valve engines. If that is the case then they're automatically equating a perfectly valid engine configuration to poor economy simply because most vehicles are not built that way anymore. Besides, multi-valve engines are not a technology rather simply a configuration.

Why not include other more pertinant technologies such as LRR tires and tire pressure monitoring systems? I'd also like to see CVT, and 6+ speed automatic transmissions into one bar.

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