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DOT, EPA Set National Standards for Fuel Economy and First Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels For Light-Duty Vehicles

Final MY 2011 and MY 2012-2016 passenger car fuel economy targets, based on vehicle footprint. Source: NHTSA. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today jointly established increasingly stringent fuel economy standards under DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Corporate Average Fuel Economy program and greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act for 2012 through 2016 model-year vehicles. (Earlier post.)

Starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the rules together require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5% every year:

  • NHTSA has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year reaching an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined industry-wide fleet (cars and light-trucks) for model year 2016.

    The CAFE standards are expressed as mathematical functions depending on vehicle footprint. Each light vehicle model produced for sale in the United States will have a fuel economy target. The CAFE levels that must be met by the fleet of each manufacturer will be determined by computing the sales-weighted harmonic average of the targets applicable to each of the manufacturer’s passenger cars and light trucks.

  • Because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet the EPA standards, but not the NHTSA standards, the EPA standards require that by the 2016 model-year, manufacturers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The EPA standard would be equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions came from fuel economy improvements.

NHTSA’s CAFE standards and EPA’s GHG standards will both be in effect—i.e., meeting one does not obviate the need to meet the other.

The agencies said that the new National Program will:

  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated, equivalent to taking 50 million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.

  • Conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated.

  • Enable the average car buyer of a 2016 model year vehicle to enjoy a net savings of $3,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle, as upfront technology costs are offset by lower fuel costs.

DOT and EPA received more than 130,000 public comments on the September 2009 proposed rules, with overwhelming support for the strong national policy. Manufacturers will be able to build a single, light-duty national fleet that satisfies all federal requirements as well as the standards of California and other states. The collaboration of federal agencies also allows for clearer rules for all automakers, instead of three standards (DOT, EPA, and a state standard).

NHTSA and EPA expect automobile manufacturers will meet these standards by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies that are already in commercial use, such as more efficient engines, transmissions, tires, aerodynamics, and materials, as well as improvements in air conditioning systems.

Although the standards can be met with conventional technologies, EPA and NHTSA also expect that some manufacturers may choose to pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies like hybrid vehicles clean diesel engines, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers issued a statement welcoming the final release of coordinated NHTSA and EPA regulations for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, saying the national regulations mark the beginning of a new integrated approach to reducing automobile fuel use and carbon emissions.

America needs a roadmap to reduced dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gases, and only the federal government can play this role. Today, the federal government has laid out a course of action through 2016, and now we need to work on 2017 and beyond.

—Dave McCurdy, President & CEO, Alliance

In conjunction with the United States, Canada is also announcing Light Duty Vehicle GHG-Emissions regulations today. US EPA and NHTSA have worked closely with Environment Canada to ensure a common North American approach.



Henry Gibson

Gutless action on the part of the US which should just immediatly lower its motorway speed limits to achieve fuel efficiency in transportation. ..HG..


Isn't it odd that EU is setting CO2 emissions at 100 g/Km and USA at 250 g/mile equivalent to about 150 g/Km.

Are our lobbies stronger than theirs or are we that far behind?

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