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President Obama Announces Updated Fuel Economy Standards

It seems California lost its appeal to enforce its own fuel economy standards, as there will be one new National Program. However, the new fuel economy standards announced today are tougher than the standards California hoped to enact.

The model year 2011 standards are set and cannot be changed, but the standards for model years 2012 and beyond were only set as estimations in the document released about a month ago. Model years 2012 to 2016 CAFE and greenhouse gas standards are now much closer to being set since the case for one national standard has been settled. California (along with 13 other states and the District of Columbia) wished to enforce its own standards independently from the federal government.

Currently, the EPA mandates greenhouse gas emissions and the NHTSA mandates CAFE standards. The fuel economy document released today specifies that the EPA and NHTSA will now work together to create one National Program specifying both greenhouse gas emissions and CAFE standards.

Under the National Program, CAFE standards will be 35.5 mpg by 2016 – four years earlier than the standards planned under the Bush administration and even one year earlier than planned for under the California standards. The 35.5 mpg figure is an estimation given by the NHTSA using the EPA’s set 2016 CO2 emission standard of less than 250 g/mi. The NHTSA says the actual figure may be less, but not by much.

The NHTSA and EPA say they are taking many things into account when creating the new National Program. They want to allow manufacturers enough time to design appropriate vehicles and incorporate new technologies into vehicles. The NHTSA cites specific fuel saving technologies such as: direct injection, advanced transmissions (such as dual-clutch or CVT), more widespread use of start/stop features, and more advanced and widespread use of hybrids. The NHTSA also calls out tire companies to start manufacturing tires optimized for fuel efficiency (read: less grip).

Lower weight, another idea cited in the document, seems contradictory to many government standards. However, the safety standards, set by the same government agency now asking to reduce a vehicle’s weight, have steadily added weight to any given vehicle.

Although the research, development and implementation of the fuel saving methods listed is expensive, the National Program expects consumers to see overall cost savings “due to the significant fuel savings.”

With the standards planned, the EPA and NHTSA estimate that more than 1.8 billion barrels of oil will be saved. It is also estimated that CO2 emissions will be reduced by 981 million tons.

For more information on the standards, check out the full release from the NHTSA here.

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