CALSTART survey finds major automotive suppliers see current CAFE standards as beneficial; 82% see BEVs as most important post-2025
Major automotive suppliers see current national fuel economy standards as a boon for company job growth and industry investment and don’t want to see them altered by policymakers, according to the findings of an annual survey commissioned by CALSTART, an automotive technology industry group. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to complete its review of the standards and make an annoucement about their appropriateness at the end of the month.
76% of the survey respondents said the current US 2025 LDV GHG standards should be either maintained (64%) or made more ambitious (12%).
Automotive suppliers have benefitted from strong fuel economy standards. Our survey shows that more suppliers are seeing the 2025 fuel economy standards as good for jobs and good for investment. The growth these companies are enjoying is at risk if the 2025 standards are rolled back. If there is one thing these companies need to thrive, it’s consistent, long-term targets.—John Boesel, president and CEO of CALSTART
A supermajority of respondents—80%—want the current 2021-2025 standards to be maintained or strengthened. As further evidence of the supplier industry’s need for stable, long-term goals, 87.5% of the respondents said it was important that the regulators begin now to establish the new standards in the post-2025 period.
CALSTART commissioned Ricardo Energy & Environment, a global consultancy that specializes in the development and implementation of sustainable policy and technology in the automotive industry, to conduct the survey. In February, the firm polled and interviewed 25 suppliers, almost all of them global Tier 1 suppliers that sell parts directly to automakers.
Among the findings of the survey:
84% of respondents agreed that the existing 2025 standards tend to encourage job growth at their companies. This is a 25% jump from a similar survey that Ricardo performed for CALSTART in 2016.
95% of respondents agreed that more ambitious fuel economy standards tend to encourage more innovation and investment in the US; 22.7% strongly agreed.
Respondents emphasized the need for regulatory certainty, which helps companies plan investments and strategies and ensures that fuel efficiency standards will serve as drivers for innovation.
87.5% of the respondents (21 out of 25) advocated that it is important to start planning and setting standards now for beyond 2025. New technologies have long development lead times, so regulatory certainty is essential.
82% of the respondents either agreed (52%) or strongly agreed (30%) with the statement, “companies that are leaders in vehicle efficiency technology will be leaders more successful over the next 10-15 years.”
When presented with a list of technologies that might be used to meet current fuel-efficiency standards, suppliers picked turbocharging and engine downsizing, along with mild 48-volt hybrids (MHEV), as the most critical. That represents a change from last year, when higher-speed automatic transmissions were seen as the second-most-important technology.
Looking to the years 2026-2032, the survey identified a significant shift in thinking. Over that time period, there was strong agreement, in order, that the top three most important, and widely used technologies would be battery-electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles, 48-volt mild hybrids and full hybrids.
Eitghy-two percent (82%) of respondents believed that BEVs would be the most important technology post-2025.
With respect to a state-led standard-setting process in the absence of a federal government standard, a minority of respondents (10 out of 23) agreed that they would support such a process; 9 out of 23 respondents replied that they would not support a state-led process. Comments provided on this question illustrated that the need to harmonize standards across states was the biggest concern. Respondents who would not support the state-led process emphasized that a unified national standard was necessary to reduce complexity.
Responses were also mixed on the issue of what level of annual reductions of GHG emissions was most appropriate in the post-2025 period. Exactly half of respondents agreed that a 4 – 5% reduction per year would be best. Three respondents indicated that a more ambitious target would be preferable, with one respondent emphasizing that zero emissions for LDVs by 2030 would be achievable. Two respondents felt that there should not be a target for reducing GHG emissions for LDVs. Five respondents felt that a 1 – 4% reduction per year would be preferable.
There was a mixed level of agreement to the statement “If the US vehicle efficiency standards became weaker, the US market would fail to benefit from investments already made in fuel efficiency technologies”. 10 out of 23 respondents either agreed (6 out of 23) or strongly agreed (4 out of 23) with this statement. A further 7 out of 23 respondents neither agreed nor disagreed. The remaining 6 out of 23 respondents disagreed with the statement.
The survey was ultimately sent to a total of 143 potential participants; 25 people responded, representing 20 different organizations. The response rate from the 143 potential respondents was therefore 17.5%.