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NHTSA Sets MY 2011 CAFE Standards; Estimates Industry-Wide 27.3 mpg

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set the model year 2011 CAFE standards, which it estimates will raise the industry-wide combined light-duty vehicle fuel economy average to 27.3 mpg, save 887 million gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the MY 2011 cars and light trucks, and reduce CO2 emissions by 8.3 million metric tons during that period.

In one of his first official acts in office in January, President Obama requested a final order for federal fuel economy standards for only model year 2011, with further consideration and analysis to occur prior to issuing rules for subsequent model years. The MY 2011 standards issued by NHTSA in response to that request rely heavily on the analysis and proposals in a final draft rule prepared, but not released, last fall. (Earlier post.)

Estimated Industry-wide MY 2011 CAFE
  MPG gCO2/mile
Combined cars and light trucks 27.3 326
Passenger cars 30.2 294
Light trucks 24.1 369

In developing standards for MY 2012 and beyond, NHTSA said that it will proceed after collecting new information, conducting a careful review of technical and economic inputs and assumptions, and standard setting methodology, and completing new analyses. Time limitations precluded that approach for MY 2011, however; the standards must be in place 18 months prior to the beginning of the affected model year. Since MY 2011 kick in for CAFE purposes on 1 October 2010, the rule needed to be in place by the end of 31 March 2009.

In looking ahead to the next CAFE rulemaking, the agency emphasizes that while the methodologies, economic and technological inputs and decision making criteria used in this rule were well-supported choices for the purposes of the MY 2011 rulemaking, they were not the only reasonable choices that the agency could have made for that purpose. Many of the key aspects of this rulemaking reflect decisions among several reasonable alternatives. The choices made in the context of last fall may or may not be the choices that will be made in the context of the follow-on rulemaking.

—Average Fuel Economy Standards Passenger Cars and Light Trucks Model Year 2011

The final rule for MY 2011 establishes footprint-based fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks. Each vehicle manufacturer’s required level of CAFE is based on target levels of average fuel economy set for vehicles of different sizes (as defined by footprint) and on the distribution of that manufacturer’s vehicles among those sizes.

The curves defining the performance target at each footprint reflect the technological and economic capabilities of the industry. The target for each footprint is the same for all manufacturers, regardless of differences in their overall fleet mix. Compliance will 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.

The agency analyzed seven regulatory alternatives, one of which maximizes net benefits within the limits of available information and is known as the “optimized standards.” This alternative, which corresponds to the Optimized Mid-2 scenario described in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the new CAFE released by NHTSA in October 2008 (earlier post), is the one the agency is adopting for MY 2011 rules.

NHTSA cannot set out the exact level of CAFE that each manufacturer will be required to meet for MY 2011 under the passenger car or light truck standards because the levels will depend on information that will not be available until the end of that model year, i.e., the final actual production figures for that year. The agency estimates, however, that the rule will result in the combined industry-wide average of 27.3 mpg US, a 2.0 mpg increase above MY 2010, corresponding to 326 gCO2/mi.

NHTSA estimates that the figures for MY 2011 passenger cars will be 30.2 mpg US (294 gCO2/mi); MY 2011 light trucks will reach 24.1 mpg (369 g/mi). In addition, per EISA, each manufacturer’s domestic passenger fleet is required in MY 2011 to achieve 27.5 mpg or 92% 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 following alternative minimum standard (not attribute-based) for domestic passenger cars of 27.8 mpg (320 gCO2/mi).

In response to the issuance of the final rule for MY 2011 CAFE, Dave McCurdy, President and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said

The finalization of the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for MY 2011 is an important first step. It is now important that the Department of Transportation provide automakers with the certainty and consistency needed by setting standards for MY 2012 and beyond.

We are hopeful that the Obama Administration can find ways to bridge state and federal concerns, and move all stakeholders towards an aggressive, national, fuel economy/greenhouse gas emissions program administered by the federal government.

Just prior to the release of the MY 2011 CAFE rule, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers had again called for a single approach for fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is an association of 11 vehicle manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

In addition to the new CAFE rules from NHTSA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon decide whether to grant California, and the other adopting states, the long-awaited waiver to implement its light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards. In addition, the administration may soon begin the process of forming a regulation on GHGs through an EPA endangerment finding. (Earlier post.)

Automakers said the adoption of an Obama national program administered by the federal government is the most effective way to bridge the concerns of all stakeholders. In her testimony before the EPA on 5 March regarding the reconsideration of the California waiver, Julie Becker, Vice President, Environmental Affairs, for the Alliance said:

...the time has come to bridge state and federal concerns and move all stakeholders forward. The Alliance believes that any effective, efficient program to address climate change must be built on a single, strong national framework administered by the federal government. This framework should acknowledge the specific product and sales structure of individual manufacturers’ fleets, and be designed in a way that challenges all manufacturers fairly by including appropriate implementation and compliance flexibilities without affecting overall greenhouse gas reductions.

To this end, we encourage EPA to work closely with all stakeholders, including NHTSA and CARB, to develop a single national program for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions administered by the federal government.



Will S

This framework should acknowledge the specific product and sales structure of individual manufacturers’ fleets

The Alliance simply wants to cement into place as much gas hog production as possible.

I applaud the Administration for taking these steps and hope that the future ones are more aggressive. We're almost 3 decades behind in these changes.


Actualy one of the big reasons everything has been sooo slow is because the dunderheads treated all the car companies like they made exactly the same types of transport. Soo of course being that they DIDNT and STILL dont and NEVER will the entire thing grinds along at the speed of the most truck heavy company. This is also why now you are seing suvs with milage rates better then some small cars.

Will S

Interestingly enough, light trucks average about what they should average, and the same goes for cars. Which SUVs have mileage rates better than some small cars? Please be specific.

If a car company makes gas guzzlers, then they should not get some sort of free pass. A business-as-usual attitude is burying the US auto companies and the final nails will be struck when gas goes up again when a recovery takes place. Until then, US auto companies will suffer loss of market share as gas creeps back up and continue to hold their corporate welfare hand out for more bailout money.

Kit P

“corporate welfare hand out for more bailout money”

Will S sounds like one of those Washington DC government types that depends on the profits of productive tax payers. They are not smart enough to make a profit themselves but think they are smart enough to tell the rest of us how to live.

CAFE standards are just another set of rules that do not apply to the makers of the rules.


I recall Bush saying that he might up the truck mileage 1 mpg or so. Later they created a bunch of brackets that would allow heavy trucks their own category. Then they finally started to do a few things that were more realistic after the 2006 elections.

Sending hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country to pay for imported oil is a national issue as big as any. A lot of the countries selling oil do not like us very much and would not hesitate to mess with us on oil shipments. Let's get a better picture of our energy future and not let them yank our chain whenever they want to.


I guess the best way to explain it to the clueless is this.

At the start of cafe each company had its key markets and was strong in certain areas. Now if at that point they had targeted various kinds of cars and trucks based on the uses and sizes of the things EVERY car and truck would have been rising in milage.

But they didnt and as a result the entire thing got held up as the one car company least well known for small cars had to try and actualy make em and SELL them. And failed and failed again because when your thinking trendy small car yes you think "you know who"...

The problem is the only thing that would work is a huge tax on oil and natural gas and that would require dropping alot of other taxes to make it fit and that.. isnt going to ever happen. The scale of the tax swap would have to be gargantuan to realy make a difference as currently fuel is the least of your costs when owning a car.

Will S

I guess the best way to explain it to the arrogant is this;

At the beginning of CAFE standards (1975), cars averaged roughly 13 mpg with the standard calling for doubling that to 27.5 within 10 years. The automakers whined and shrieked that they couldn't do that unless everyone bought a downsized Pinto. Of course, they met it easily, but Reagan stopped the continued advancement of CAFE, even dropping the standard 1 mpg. Bush Sr. didn't do much, and Clinton thought about 40mpg by 2000, but chose the Partnership for New Generation Vehicle (PNGV), a family car that could acheive 80 mpg, with matching funds to automakers who accepted and promised to field these vehicles in 2003. The big 3 did, and came out with prototypes in 2000; GM made the 80 mpg Precept, Chrysler made the 72 mpg ESX III, and Ford made the 72 mpg Prodigy. All along, the Republican majority kept inserting rider statements on budget bills that prevented any funding to go towards CAFE studies or communications of any kind. And of course, we all know about the crushing of the GM EV-1s. When Bush Jr came in, he killed the program (since his main constituents were oil and other energy companies), and replaced it with a concept program that was decades off, so that the auto companies could keep right on cranking out gas guzzling vehicles, which made them happy, and the oil companies happy. Towards the end of his tenure, he made a slight adjustment to the CAFE standards to attempt a mild greenwash, but no one was fooled.

The Congressmen and Senators who have been fighting higher CAFE standards all along, besides a couple of auto or oil state Democrats, have been almost exclusively Republicans. The filibustered the last CAFE change to get it down to 35 mpg by 2020, which is absurd considering some countries have that standard in force NOW.

Yes, I believe a revenue-neutral gas tax, or broader gas tax, would be beneficial, incrementing every 3 months by $.20 for at least 5 years. That way, people buying cars now know what they're getting themselves into, and people who have gas hogs today can make adjustments (carpooling, mass transit, telecommuting, biking, etc) and keep their costs in check.


Ah sorry Will I didnt know you realy didnt know.

I am a conservative from a conservative family and grew up at the time so ill give you the bit your missing.

As a conservative of the time you were frugal.

You drove a frugal midsized sedan to work and that sedan had a frugal engine and transmission in it. This generaly ment it took about 5 years to reach highway speed and your entire goal was to get into overdrive and stay there where your cost per mile was at its lowest. Why? Because conservatives never waste money and gas is money. Why would you spend more money to get to work then you have to?

My dads sedan got 27 mpg and was made in 72 or so. It got 27 mpg commuting via its overdrive gear. But it likely tested as getting far lower because again it was a commute car it was designed for the freeway.

Other then that we had a station wagon made.. god knows when that got 17 mpg when driven frugaly.. this even tho it likely weighed 3 tons and was made from solid cast iron;/

We got a full sized van in the mid 70s BEFORE cafe.. a ford ECONOLINE van.. with double overdrive transmission.

It got 21 mpg if driven frugaly in its second overdrive gear.. this even tho it was basicaly a building on wheels.

We were always frugal even when my dad earned several times more then many because again conservatives dont waste money.

When people clamored for better fuel economy in cars my dad said.. then get a sedan with a economical engine and trans and learn to drive!

What did they do? They bought full sized vans getting 5 mpg and then tweaked them for even more power and added hottubs to them...

Muscle cars... they were designed to get boys laid. Everyone knows you dont ask a boy to save money on getting laid. End of story.

That was how it realy was back then from our point of view.

We didnt like the idea of cafe because it basicaly told the car companies ok even tho you actualy have no control over what idiotic trend will pop up next and have to sell whatever people will your gona have to double the fuel economy of all your cars based on a test that doesnt in any way look anything like what any of your cars are designed to run best at wich is what your frugal customers are actualy buying your frugal cars for.. In effect totaly fubaring everything up every way possible.

And all this as full sized vans become more and more popular and sedans and station wagons become "old" unhip CONSERVATIVE rides.....


I mean realy what do you expect a car company to do when the public for no reason whatsoever desides a 4 ton TRUCK is new fresh and sporty... Its a freaking truck! Its as sporty as my aunts underwear! grrrr. And no it wasnt commercials and ads that did that. Oh and yes im talking about the vans not even talking about suvs.... That weirdness came much later.

Will S

Ah sorry Will I didnt know you realy didnt know.

Your ant's eye view of the history of fuel economy is entertaining, but the conservatives I knew growing up (I grew up conservative) all drove big gashog Caddies, Olds, Buicks, etc.

And no it wasnt commercials and ads that did that.

Oh, so the mass bombardment of advertising for light trucks by the Big 3 had no effect at all? Funny, why do you think they purposefully threw all that money away on useless advertising then?


Now, the average fuel economy of the fleet of cars and light trucks in the UK is 70% better than in the USA.
USA, about 9.6 km/litre
UK, about 16.3 km/litre


As my dad said the fact is people resist the establishment and in this case the establishment is telling them to conserve gas.. and thus they buy bigger cars thus the van craze and the suv craze.

The more you try and push the more insane the resistance gets..

Those big guzzler owners were realy just resisting the establishment.. wich is kinda funny as in many cases they WERE the establishment at the same time;/

Poeple will go to insane lengths to not do what you tell them to.

Never forget most of the people are neither conservative nor are they liberal. They just side one way or the other because of what they hate. To get the job done you just need to tax it because EVERYONE hates taxes.


Oh before I get corrected on this I should point out something.

A hobby formed around that time...

Pissing off environmentlists.. It mostly involved driving stupidly silly oversized cars.. It was cheaper then motor boating fishing and golfing and was realy fun.

Just take a rediculously big sedan... stretch it.. add in a hot tub.. add in a titanic set of steer horns up front... Tune the engine to be LOUD. Make sure you can adjust the carb to make it extra smokey.. extra points if flames come out the tail pipe...

But thats a hobby and compared to many hobbies not a very energy intensive one even.

That I guess is the core of what im saying. Any time you tell people what to do.. no matter if its conserve fuel or stop smoking dont pollute or just say no.... people will make time for the hobby of pissing you off. But if you just swap one tax for anouther...

As a result of cafe we have millions of hobbiest gas wasters. Are we realy better off or are we just all having waay too much fun pissing each other off.


If Congress had simply taxed gasoline instead of demanding CAFE standards from mfgrs, all the idiots with the cow horns would have been self-penalizing and the problem would have solved itself.

I was saying as much on Usenet two decades ago, and people still haven't learned.


Holy fark me and ep agreeing on something.... im scared.

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