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Study finds recent achieved CAFE performance outpacing levels projected to be achieved by NHTSA

Average monthly and model year fleet-wide achieved CAFE performance levels (light purple) versus NHTSA projected achieved CAFE levels (blue) for model years 2008 through 2016. Schoettle and Sivak 2013. Click to enlarge.

Achieved Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) fuel economy performance has exceeded the anticipated levels for 2012 and 2013 model years—the two years that the current standard has been in effect—according to a new analysis by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

Additionally, they found, achieved CAFE performance has consistently increased annually from model year 2008 through model year 2013. If the current trends in annual improvements continue, future CAFE performance is expected to continue meeting or exceeding the projected performance levels (and desired greenhouse gas reductions) contained in the latest CAFE standards.

In August 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the final standard governing new-vehicle fuel economy for model years 2017 through 2025. (Earlier post.)

NHTSA developed two phases of standards in this rulemaking. The first phase, from MYs 2017-2021, includes final standards that are projected to require, on an average industry fleet-wide basis, a range from 40.3—41.0 mpg US (5.84 to 5.74 L/100km) in MY 2021. The second phase of the CAFE program, from MYs 2022-2025, includes standards that are not final, due to the statutory requirement that NHTSA set average fuel economy standards not more than 5 model years at a time. NHTSA projects that those standards could require, on an average industry fleet wide basis, a range from 48.7–49.7 mpg (4.83 to 4.73 L/100km) in model year 2025.

Average fleet-wide CAFE performance targets and the corresponding projected achieved performance levels (without credits) for model years 2012 through 2025. Schoettle and Sivak 2013, EPA/NHTSA 2010, 2012). Click to enlarge.

EPA established standards that are projected to require, on an average industry fleet-wide basis, 163 grams/mile of carbon dioxide in model year 2025, which would be equivalent to 54.5 mpg (4.3 L/100km) if this level were achieved solely through improvements in fuel efficiency. However, the agencies expect that a portion of these improvements will be made through improvements in air conditioning leakage and through use of alternative refrigerants, which would not contribute to fuel economy, as well as the use of alternative credits.

NHTSA refers to anticipated actual performance (without credits) as “projected achieved”. (See chart at right.)

Sivak and Schoettle compared the recent improvements in fuel economy with the projected CAFE performance levels anticipated by NHTSA. Sales-weighted, unadjusted CAFE performance was calculated from the monthly and annual sales of individual models of light-duty vehicles and the unadjusted combined city/highway fuel-economy ratings for the respective models. (Unadjusted figures are higher than the “window-sticker” adjusted ratings on new car labels.)

Sivak and Schoettle did not factor in the various credits and adjustments available to manufacturers when determining final CAFE performance values. Hence, the calculations in this report represent the actual achieved CAFE performance for the new vehicle fleet. The UMTRI team compared the results with the projected achieved fleet-wide CAFE performance published by NHTSA.

Overall, they found that the two most recent model years (2012 and 2013) experienced an increase of 1.0 mpg and 0.9 mpg, respectively, in average fleet-wide achieved CAFE performance. Overall, achieved CAFE performance has improved by 4.3 mpg from model years 2008 to 2013 from 25.5 mpg (9.22 l/100 km) to 29.8 mpg (7.89 l/100 km)—a 16.9% improvement.

For the two model years completed under the current standard (2012 and 2013), the achieved performance levels exceeded NHTS’a anticipated levels by 0.2 mpg and 0.1 mpg, respectively.


  • Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak (2013) A Comparison of CAFE Standards and Actual CAFE Performance of New Light-Duty Vehicles (UMTRI-2013-35)



On my worst day, I'm beating the 2025 targets.  Not bad.


Perhaps we really can get off foreign oil. Could it again be all that was needed was a little Government push to make it happen? Sure makes the naysayers look bad again!

Who are those naysayers Mr. Calibash? Are you talking about the shutdown party, the party of "no?"


"CAFE standards sacrifice lives for oil"
Heartland Institute

On July 10, 2001, Secretary Mineta sent a letter to Congress asking that the freeze on CAFE standards be lifted immediately so NHTSA could resume its CAFE rulemaking responsibilities. However, the freeze was not lifted until December 2001, when the FY 2002 Appropriations Act for the Department of Transportation,for the first time in six years, did not include a rider freezing CAFE standards. NHTSA immediately resumed its CAFE rulemaking responsibilities and issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for MY 2004 light truck standards on January 24, 2002.


You need a sustained push from government as well as market signals (expensive fuel) to have an effect on MPG.
The problem with fuel prices is that they are too variable, and as soon as they drop a bit, people forget about economy and buy SUVs again.
However, a sustained, multi-decade push from government gives manufacturers the ability to plan for increases in mpg and new, expensive to develop technology development.

You can see the same thing happening in Europe with our CO2 mandates (120 gms/km, going to 95 gms/km).


The Tesla Model S has the best crash-safety score ever achieved in a passenger car, and uses no oil for power.  Absolutely zero tradeoffs there.


2,000 lives a year is about 7 billion in cost.

That isn't that expensive.

Bob Wallace

All we need is a rule that says "Starting in 201x all cars and light trucks sold will be either EVs or PHEVs with at least 15 mile electric range".

Many car manufacturers already have EVs on the road or under development.

GM developed the Volt in only a few years. They, and now Toyota, are producing PHEVs that can be used by other companies to use as a model.

New car models go from concept to assembly line in about three years.

Oil use for personal transportation would drop at least 75%.


HEVs and specially FCEVs will be part of it a many years.

Roger Pham

Good point, Bob, but it seems that there is (are) hidden force(s) that is(are) keeping auto MFG's from releasing PEV's or even HEV's in large numbers. They either make EV's real expensive, or if not, make EV's or PEV's have disadvantages that prevent them from being adopted en masse.

Perhaps the same force(s) are keeping the gov. from making more demands from auto MFG's. Perhaps petroleum must be pumped from the ground until near exhaustion before PEV's will be allowed to be released in significant quantities.
Unless, of course, that the oil and gas industry can find ways to make synthetic zero-CO2-fuels as profitable as petroleum, and the gov. can find ways to assist them in that regard!

Oil use for personal transportation would drop at least 75%.

Maybe 50%, given how many people either don't have chargers readily available, can't be bothered to use them, or whose driving is mostly long continuous legs.  Until the roadways can be electrified, these people would be better off with some sort of hybrid or a diesel.  But 50% is still HUGE, and habits and infrastructure change over time.

If the major roadways were electrified, the Ford PHEVs would almost never switch their engines on.  They have plenty of power except for panic situations.

Bob Wallace

The only hidden force keeping EV and PHEV sales low is not hidden. It's the 'in your face' purchase price.

The only hidden force keeping EVs and PHEVs expensive is that batteries are still expensive. The largest reason for that seems to be that we aren't manufacturing enough.

Manufacturers will make what the public will buy. Nissan has built new factories in which to build EVs. They will be glad to build more given adequate demand. Ford set up three assembly lines for their Focus when they started building it. Those lines can be converted from ICEV to EV production in a few days, it demand switches.

Battery prices are coming down. There are multiple batteries that seem to be emerging from the lab that offer much higher capacity.

We're about three years into this generation of EVs. It's a little early to get overly concerned about price and range. Look at how long it took personal computers to drop to the prices we now enjoy. Or cell phones. Or large screen TVs.

If the major roadways were electrified

If the major roadways were electrified we'd be fine with 50 - 100 mile range EVs. There would be no need to haul around a liquid fuel range extender.

South Korea is testing a couple of buses on a 15 mile route that is wired for inductive charging. Somewhere between 5% and 15% of the roadway needs to be wired. Inductive coils 8" below the road surface. The buses have enough battery capacity to carry them from one charging area to the next and they charge while moving.

If we don't get high capacity, affordable batteries then on the go inductive charging is a possibility. And it would eliminate the need for charging stations and stopping for a charge while on a long trip.

I think we need to give wiring our major travel corridors a serious thought. EVs could cost a lot less if they didn't need more than 50 - 100 mile ranges.


With electrified roadways you'd be better off with a 25-mile PHEV plus a range extender for off-network; the extra capacity of the BEV would get used even less, but still wouldn't be able to support long trips on smaller roads.  The same amount of batteries can electrify 3-4x as many vehicles in PHEVs as BEVs.

Bob Wallace

I can't see how batteries stay more expensive than ICEs. There's so little to them. Chemicals in a plastic container.

We might never develop high capacity batteries (even though I think we're close), but cost seems to be nothing but a manufacturing scale issue.

I'd like to see someone do the math on electrifying our roads, assuming ~10% wired vs. installing range extenders. We'd need enough road wiring to cover perhaps a max of 20% all cars vs. putting an ICE in 100%.

Roger Pham

Cost-wise, inductive roadway electrification is analogous to linear induction motor (LIM) train vs. on-board motor using overhead caternary wire. Guess which was found to be more cost-effective, based on real-world adaptation? At least in LIM, you don't have the additional cost of on-board motor, speed controller, and battery. Yet, LIM was found to be more expensive than using simple overhead conductor running electric motor spinning the wheels.

Also, please don't forget that in order to have extensive RE utilization, energy harvested in springs, summers, and falls must be stored for winter use. If RE stored in the form of H2 or synthetic HC fuels, then it would be more efficient to use these fuels onboard the vehicle rather than using these fuels to generate electricity to the grid with associated losses, and then further losses in the induction system and then losses in the vehicle electrical system.

THus, you will see that FCV's will take off rapidly from 2015-2020, because FCV's will solve simultaneously the emission problem (assoc. w/ ICEV), the range (of BEV's), fillup time (of BEV's), energy cost, and eventually cost issue with mass production.

Bob Wallace

Roger, the wind blows in the winter. Geothermal, hydro and tidal generate the year around. We can put a match to biomass whenever we need. There are even days in the winter when the Sun shines.

Have you considered the issue storing a winter's worth of hydrogen?

Will we see FCVs "take off rapidly starting in 2015-2020"?

Many things are possible. Some more likely than others. We'll have to wait and see.

Given that few car companies are even working on fuel cell vehicles but almost all are entering the EV/PHEV business I'm guessing that we're not heading toward FCVs. 2015 is close at hand.

You're free to form your own beliefs on the data and facts you have at hand.

Cost-wise an overhead wire might be better, but we won't go there. We're not about to string large number of wires over all our roadways and into our garages.

EVs will have batteries of some size. We're certainly not going to wire 100% of where we drive. The question is whether we'll install large battery banks and rely on rapid chargers during long trips or smaller battery banks and use inductive charging while moving (if that is feasible).

With inductive charging we could "share" large batteries which would store late night wind generation and feed into highway coils when people are driving. Some additional loss in the extra storage step but that might be financially offset by the ability to use smaller battery banks in our EVs.

And we need to keep the option of battery swapping on long drives as an option. Build our EVs so that they normally carry a "100 mile" range pack but could hold an additional "200 mile" range pack which we could rent and exchange along our route.

And, yes, keep the dream of PHEVs alive. Some people think that the only answer. It's not time to declare a winner. We haven't reached the end of development for any of the potential technologies.


Americans and Canadians (and many industrial nations) produce domestic waste at the rate of 6 tons per capita per year or about 24 tons per year for the average family. One ton of waste can produce 600+ kWh. That could be as much as 600 kWh x 24 = 14400 kWh/year per average family.

A mid-size EV will use an average of 10 kWh/day or 3650 kWh/year. The average family waste could produce enough electricity for 14400/3650 = 4 EVs

In other words, many industrial nations could run all private (electrified) vehicles and get rid of their mountains of smelly waste at the same time.

Isn't that a real win-win possibility?

Bob Wallace

That sounds too good to be true, Harvey.

Your EV numbers look fine. 13,000 annual miles at 0.3 kWh/mile = 3,900 kWh.

Do you have a link for the waste -> electricity part?


A new firm in the more efficient waste conversion to electricity claimed 580 (**) kWh hour per tonne, in a local newspaper article last week from their pilot unit. Larger commercial units could produce over 600 kWh/tonne.

The per capita family waste per year was from USA's stats.

The yearly electricity consumption was based on 18,000 Km per vehicle per year for mid size well designed units excluding all brick like VUS and Pick-ups.

(**) on top of the electricity produced, this firm claimed that, heat, gas and fertilizer was produced as secondary benefits.

(***) the firm could also claim between $6/tonne to $100/tonne for waste disposal.

Bob Wallace

Any idea about the name of the company? Perhaps where the article was published?

I'd like to see the assumptions they are making.


BW...I'll try to trace the article.

By the way, I managed to get a 2013 Camry XLE Hybrid at the same price as the ICE equivalent version. Ford's Lincoln Hybrid is also offering the same deal.

Both meet future 2025+ CAFE standards.

I selected the Camry over the Lincoln due to historical proven overall performances and past experiences with Camrys. So far, fuel consumption is a bit better than claimed. I get 42-45 mpg US instead of 40-41 by driving close to legal speed limits. No problem getting 1000 Km per tank of gas.


BW...I could not retrace the local firm/article but a Google search gave equivalent results. Please check WTERI (Waste to Energy).

WTE plants in USA produce 500 to 600 kWh per ton of waste or 600 to 720 kWh per tonne of waste.

WTE co-generation (electricity + heat) plants in Denmark do much better.

When domestic + agriculture + industrial waste is added, the per capita potential is much higher.


I got over 4000 km on a tank, two tanks ago.  That fillup lasted me from early June to late September.

Gotta love a plug-in.


That's about 4 times better than our Hybrid and an excellent solution for people with charging facilities.

A PHEV with many square meters of high efficiency solar cells, integrated e-storage and a very small (10 KW or so) CNG range extender could go months between refills?


My "charging facility" is a 120 V, 15 A 3-prong NEMA outlet.

Bob Wallace

"Of the 748,918 recorded single-trip journeys recorded by the DoT 2009 National Household Travel Survey -

95 percent were under 30 miles.

98 percent were under 50 miles in length.

1 percent of were over 70 miles.

The average single-trip distance was 5.95 miles.

While rural respondents naturally traveled further on average than their urban counterparts, 95 percent of all rural-based trips were still under 50 miles.

Of the 106,681 survey participants who drove to work every day in a car -

95 percent of them traveled less than 40 miles to work, with the average commute distance being 13.6 miles.

93 percent of them drove less than 100 miles.

The average daily drive total for urban-based cars was just 36.5 miles, while rural-based cars drove an average of 48.6 miles."

1 percent of were over 70 miles. I suspect we imagine that we drive long distances more often than we actually do. Or, at least, those of us who do drive long-often are more represented in discussions.

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