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NHTSA Introduces Proposed Fuel Economy Targets for MY 2011-2015; 31.6 MPG Fleet Average

Proposed increases in new vehicle fuel economy, MY 2011-2015. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for new vehicle fuel economy standards that would bring the US average to about 31.6 miles per gallon in 2015 (35.7 mpg cars, 28.6 mpg trucks).

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), passed in December 2007 (earlier post), mandates the setting of separate attribute-based maximum feasible standards for passenger cars and for light trucks at levels sufficient to ensure that the average fuel economy of the combined fleet of all passenger cars and light trucks sold by all manufacturers in the US in model year (MY) 2020 equals or exceeds 35 mpg.

Under EISA, NHTSA, the agency that “owns” fuel economy regulations, can establish standards for a maximum of five model years at one time. Hence, the initial proposed rulemaking covers model years 2011-2015.

The 35 mpg target for 2020 represents a 31% increase above the 2007 new fleet average of 26.7 mpg. NHTSA is front-end loading the fuel economy increases—achieving the 31.6 mpg combined average represents about 60% of the total increase from current levels pushed into the first half of the plan.

The new proposal sets a required level of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) for each vehicle manufacturer based on target levels of average fuel economy set for vehicles of different sizes and on the distribution of that manufacturer’s vehicles among those sizes. Size would be defined by vehicle footprint.

The target for each footprint would be the same for all manufacturers, regardless of differences in their overall fleet mix. Compliance would be determined by comparing a manufacturer’s harmonically averaged fleet fuel economy levels in a model year with a required fuel economy level calculated using the manufacturer’s actual production levels and the targets for each footprint of the vehicles that it produces.

To develop the targets, NHTSA used a computer model (the “Volpe Model”) that, for any given model year, applies technologies to a manufacturer’s fleet until the manufacturer reaches compliance with the standard under consideration. The process recognizes that the relevance of costs in achieving benefits, and uses benefit figures that include the value of reducing the negative externalities (economic and environmental) from producing and consuming fuel. These environmental externalities include, among other things, reducing tailpipe emissions of CO2. In view of the process used to develop the proposed standards, they are also referred to as “optimized standards.”

Compared to the 2006 rulemaking that established the MY 2008-11 CAFE standards for light trucks, this rulemaking much more fully captures the value of the costs and benefits of setting CAFE standards. This is important because assumptions regarding gasoline price projections, along with assumptions for externalities, are based on changed economic and environmental and energy security conditions and play a big role in the agency’s balancing of the statutory considerations in arriving at a determination of maximum feasible.

In light of EISA and the need to balance the statutory considerations in a way that reflects the current need of the nation to conserve energy, including the current assessment of the climate change problem, the agency revisited the various assumptions used in the Volpe Model to determine the level of the standards. Specifically, in running the Volpe Model and stopping at a point where marginal costs equaled marginal benefits or where net benefits to society are maximized, the agency used higher gasoline prices and higher estimates for energy security values ($0.29 per gallon instead of $0.09 per gallon). The agency also monetized carbon dioxide (at $7.00/ton), which it did not do in the previous rulemaking, and expanded its technology list.

NHTSA cannot specify the exact level of CAFE that each manufacturer will be required to meet for each model year under the proposed passenger car or light truck standards since the levels will depend on information that will not be available until final actual production figures are available the end of each of the model years.

The agency can, however, project what the industry wide level of average fuel economy would be for passenger cars and for light trucks if each manufacturer produced its expected mix of automobiles and just met its obligations under the proposed “optimized” standards for each model year. Adjacent to each average fuel economy figure is the estimated associated level of tailpipe emissions of CO2 that would be achieved.

NHTSA Proposed Average Optimized Fuel Economy Targets, MY 2011-2015
(CO2 rates based on gasoline characteristics)
MY Cars Trucks Combined
mpg gCO2/mi mpg gCO2/mi mpg gCO2/mi
2011 31.2 285 25.0 355 27.8 320
2012 32.8 271 26.4 337 29.2 304
2013 34.0 261 27.8 320 30.5 291
2014 34.8 255 28.2 315 31.0 287
2015 35.7 249 28.6 310 31.6 281

EISA also requires that each manufacturer’s domestic passenger fleet each model year achieve 27.5 mpg or 92 percent of the CAFE of the industry-wide combined fleet of domestic and non-domestic passenger cars for that model year, whichever is higher. This requirement results in the an alternative minimum standard (not attribute-based) for domestic passenger cars of 32.9 mpg by 2015.

NHTSA also issued, along with the proposed rule, a notice requesting updated product plan information and other data from automakers to assist in developing a final rule.

The agency estimates that the proposed standards would save approximately 18.7 billion gallons of fuel and avoid tailpipe CO2 emissions by 178 billion metric tons over the lifetime of the passenger cars sold during those model years; would save approximately 36 billion gallons of fuel and prevent the tailpipe emission of 343 million metric tons of CO2 over the lifetime of the light trucks sold during those model years; and deliver a total benefit of $88 billion over the lifetime of the vehicles, compared to what would occur if the standards remained at the adjusted baseline (i.e., the higher of manufacturer’s plans and the manufacturer’s required level of average fuel economy for MY 2010).

The agency estimates that compliance will cost the automakers approximately $16 billion for passenger cars and approximately $31 billion for light trucks, for a combined $47 billion.





You are right they are catching up with California, when in the same time their are blocking their waiver, too funny. The Bush administration is caught in its own trap here, they realize now taht it becomes urgent to speed up energy conservation, to avoid a catastrophe. Anyway I am sure that the prices at the pump will force automakers to go faster than this new complicated regulation (full of luphole by the way).

Look at this, this past week :

Saoudia, oil producer number 1, said they will never increase their production in order to manage their resource over the long term (in fact they have problem of production)

Russia, oil producer number 1, said their production will decrease this year and more and more experts think they have passed their peak.

Oil production in Mexico is in decline

Oil production in UK and Norway is in decline

Oil production in US as been declining these past 35 years.

60 out of 100 oil producing countries are in decline

oil price at the pump will shoot to 6$ well before this regulation take action.

WaltD biodiesel will do nothing to ease price at the pump, biodiesel production is way too small and can't be scaled to the point it can influence the market.

Even 31.6 MPG fleet will not ease the pain at the pump

Better look at Aptera, Venture Car, Scooter, Cyling, or Caltrain to keep your mobility ...

The era of cheap oil is over and expensive oil will only be in limited supply...

Good luck



Found a List of oil megaprojects that will supposedly come online this year that may slow the downslope, at least. The Thunder Horse platform will finally come online the second half of the year. That could make up for decreasing Mexican production for a time.


"The agency estimates that compliance will cost the automakers ... for a combined $47 billion."

Did anybody notice that little item? It's the buyers of the cars, not the manufacturers, who will pay this! Actually, it's government mandated which makes it a TAX.

Maybe the best way to go is:
1) close down the NHTSA - those standards haven't done anything for 30+ years, save a pile of tax money
2) dump the politicians who continue those idiotic mandates - while proving too stupid/incompetent to do the jobs they are supposed to do
3) start drilling ANWR and all the other sites where we have oil - that would be a boost to the economy!
4) build refineries
5) dig for coal and build plants to convert coal to gasoline - Sasol in South Africa has done that since the 1970's
6) give the oil companies some room to operate, instead of 'stealing' their profits, and we'll get the energy we need

I'm all for getting European cars here. I'd love to be able to get a Citroen, Alfa 159, even an Opel Vectra. The Vectra with the 2.2l direct injection engine (a cousin of the 159's engine) averages about 30 mpg with the 6 speed manual - calculated from data on the website - and weighs right around 3000 lbs. With the available 1.9l turbo-diesel it gets 37 mpg average. My wife's 1989 Plymouth Horizon I now use to commute daily 75 miles round trip get's 30 mpg, with the 2.2l throttle body injection (a step up from a carburetor) and auto trans. Possible option for replacement VW Passat 2.0T, 6 speed manual. So much for choice!

I don't have a safety problem with a small car. It seems, however, that people should LEARN TO DRIVE before they are allowed on the roads. That's the real problem. Making somebody a hero for trashing a car is idiotic, if he can't keep the shiny side up, he's a moron and should be forced to use feet, bicycle or public transport because he cannot afford the car insurance! Maybe a motorcycle - he'll likely learn rather quickly. Speed does not kill - incompetent drivers do!

One final thought, CO2 emissions are directly related to the amount of gasoline burned, until you remove the carbon from the fuel entirely.



Give me a break the Thunder Horse is 1 billions barrels 2P, 2 months of US consumption, all these projects are small fishes. When the bulk of the 80bbd start to peak now way you can compensate with small fields that you start here and there.



Your proposals are a dead ends, drilling in NWR will save a few years and then the problem will come back even bigger. CTL is not a good solution, too much CO2 emission, cost is horrendously high, Coal price will skyrocket along with natural gaz. It is time to boost efficiency and energy conservation, believe me if the white House admitt it that means it is already too late...

Conservation and efficincy improvment can bring much more excess capacity than drilling in ANWR or CTL


I guess there's nothing to do but sit back and wait for the oil famine to start. It's going to be the 14th Century all over again, and worse.


This is why we need electric, cellulose biofuels, NG, SNG, solar and whatever we can come up with. It will take the pressure off of the oil demand and give us more energy diversity. Efficiency through technology and conservation through behavioral changes will help too.


"How about taking your license away for 90 Days if you are caught drinking and driving - mandatory. How about taking your license away for 30 days if you get a wreckless driving ticket?"

Good suggestions. Except now if you run over someone and kill em, you'll be driving the next day - especially in Canada where state controlled insurance monopolies protect reckless drivers. How? Just claim it was an "accident." Why should a DUI suspend a license while some guy runs over a little kid "accident" gets a bump in their insurance premium and a pass back on the road?

How about you hit someone with a vehicle you never drive anything with a motor again? How about mandatory jail terms of one year in addition? How about a second reckless driving offense gets 20 to life in federal penn? And while we're at it, let's get old drivers off the road. Anyone over 65 should take a mandatory safe driving course, annual re-license road test, vision test and eye-hand coordination tests. Teen drivers only daylight. A teen accident suspends license until 21. Teen drug or drink - no license ever, mandatory treatment program, ankle monitor til 21 and mandatory disclosure to community law enforcement. This offense should also cost em voting rights and no service in any federal or state job - ever.

That might help with the CAFE a little.


Crazy as it may seem, a moderate return to horsedrawn transport could immediately alleviate some climate change concerns. Communal barns with horses for hire at very low cost day rates and conversion of bike lanes to horsedrawn lanes would also end transport discrimination against the infirm and physically challenged. A few problems would remain: Food for fuel would continue to be thorny, as would CH4 pollution at 650g/horsehour. But drastic cuts in insurance premiums, transport related accident, medical, and fuel costs would more than compensate. The attacks by PETA and animal rights people should only be a minor distraction.

For the oil holdouts there is a vast petroleum field in North Dakota greater than Saudi and there's plenty of natural gas in Zion, Glacier, and Yellowstone National Parks. Those resources are federalized already and should be made available to the people.


An electric bicycle would be a lot better choice than a horses. Horses only breed so fast, are very temperamental creatures, and you still have to feed them. A good e-bike would go faster than a hayburner anyway.


E-bikes are a great idea, but even in ecology conscious Denmark, they have a tough time getting people to ride bikes. It might be the weather, culture or other factors, but once you have the modern conveniences, bike riding is for recreation.


Commuter bike riding in egomaniacal North America is a death wish. People shy from all but recreational bike riding primarily because we all know someone who has been clobbered by a car. In fact actuarials on the incidence of bike rider and pedestrian auto accidents has risen significantly as more socialized greens walk and ride bikes to work. Not very appealing.

Part of the behavior change needed in the West is an enforcement of pedestrian right of ways. In most countries the law requires drivers to yield for bicyclists and pedestrians. Do they? Hell no. Most vehicle drivers see pedestrians and bicyclists as something to dodge like a slow-moving obstacle. Driver annoyance and subsequent road rage is the cause of some 60,000 pedestrian "accidents" annually in a single Canadian Province. There they are treated like a cost of doing business.

We say if a DUI pulls a license for 90 days, hitting a pedestrian with a motor vehicle gets you mandatory jail for 90 or three year license suspension. You get your license back only after rage deprogramming, 90 days driver school and public reporting of the incident (Johns law.) And if law enforcement colludes with gov't, insurance to sweep pedestrian accidents under the rug - clean house.

These are behavioral changes that save lives not just carbon dioxide.


I agree, the U.S. is not bike friendly for the most part. In Denmark, they have miles of pedestrian walkways and bike lanes. Here we have few sidewalks but plenty of lanes for big SUVs.

Here we might put in a bike lane for a mile or two and then some people complain about their tax dollars being wasted. I do not understand some of the people in this country. It must be that 30% that vote Republican no matter what.

since when has a Chevrolet HHR, Jeep Compass FWD, Nissan Quashqai/Rogue or any MPV/ mini-van e.g. Chrysler Voyager/Caravan been a frickin' TRUCK??

I smell a giant loophole for GM/Ford/Chrysler


Right about the loophole. What's this crap about calling anything but a full, open bed truck, a truck?? It's a ridiculous loophole and should be closed if not by the manufacturers - then by legislation.


Of course there are loopholes. The reason none of this was passed 2003-2006 is the Republicans controlled Congress. The bill still has to pass with a margin and they have to have 60 Senators to even get it to a vote. There are 49 Republican Senators. So to get it to a vote, lots of compromises get made and lots of loopholes get inserted. Even if they manage to pass it in both houses there is the veto, which takes 67 votes in the Senate to override. When you have an oil guy in the White House and his party can block anything it wants, it is difficult to make progress. There are those that want things to stay just as they are. Their friends make tons of money and the big campaign checks just roll in.


On loopholes
The loophole for light trucks is nothing new. It has been around at least since the early 80s. In fact in its last rulemaking (2006) NHTSA tightened up the definition of light trucks to exclude certain vehicles like the PT Cruiser, but I don't believe those changes have taken effect yet.

On small car production
Curiously, Ford selling the Fiesta or Ka probably wouldn't be especially helpful. Because of the switch to a size-based standard, selling more small cars will just drive up a manufacturer's required CAFE.

On diesels
Tier 2 Bin 5 is not keeping diesels out of the US. Tier 2 extends down to Bin 8, so diesels do not have to meet Bin 5 in order to be sold in the US. If I recall correctly, a manufacturer's product line must average out to Bin 5, but diesels could easily be offset by more Bin 2-4 gasoline vehicles.


To get people into lighter cars you need a few things.

A bigger road with wider lanes.
Less 18 wheelers per mile per lane ALOT less.
fewer accidents involving big rigs utinity trucks busses and such.
commutes that atmy a stress test.
small cars made for old people.
less carjackings and such less roadrage and less road crime.. alot less of all these.
fewer 9 to 5 jobs more spread out.
force drunk drivers and high drivers to drive micro cars so small they cant even run over a moped.
Foexw bad drivers into tiny cars.
Force all repeat criminals and specialy road rage and carjackers into micro cars.


I would agree with the 18 wheeler part. Rail transport is far more efficient, but so far the Congress has left all that to private corporations with no coordination. If we are going to reduce the imports of oil, we need to start with big things like rail freight. Semi trucks and trailers are not an efficient method for long haul freight transport. Streamline the trailers and let them haul the freight to and from rail freight depots.


Re: pedestrians in the US

From what I see as a driver and frequent pedestrian the blame is not 100% the driver's. For every one driver that blows through a right turn on red without coming to a full stop (particularly to check for pedestrians crossing and not just because it is THE LAW) - I see two pedestrians jay walking (ignoring cross/don't cross lights, crossing the middle of a road instead of walking to the nearest intersection - even when it means crossing a 5-7 lane and very busy road)


I have seen pedestrians with cell phones. They are just as bad if not worse than drivers with cell phones. I have watched pedestrians with cell phones to their ears walk right off curbs without looking as if cars are suppose to watch out for them. It is up to everyone to act responsibly.


"to check for pedestrians crossing and not just because it is THE LAW..."

Hate to sound cynical but automobile drivers believe they are ABOVE the LAW. Lazy police work and driver training makes the problem worse. J-walking earns you a ticket in most U.S. cities. Want behavioral change in auto usage?? Start slapping $350.00 fines on failure to yield infractions. Put a few "hit and cry accident" drivers in jail for a year. Send every traffic cop to traffic school to learn or re-learn the LAW. i.e. Put up or shut up about green walking and biking to work.


Its simply about how the human brain works folks. It tries to go into auto mode as often as possible on commonly done things and it also isnt nearly as spiffy as many think. As a result people simply cant see peds and vikes they dont even manage small cars and large motorbikes. You cant change that realy as they arnt seeing them much and this when the automatic brain kicks in it cant handle em.

Its why 18 wheelers are inherantly deadly the drivers brain cant follow all the now little cars and stopping distances and turn styles have all changed.

If you have ever driven to work and cant remember the drive your part of the tends of millions on auto every day.


90 days in county lockup oughtto remind their complacent little minds, eh??

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