Changes in CAFE regulation in U.S.
The US government is reviewing a relaxation of fuel economy targets for car makers.
The Trump administration has taken the first steps towards dismantling regulations designed to improve dramatically the fuel efficiency of cars sold in the USA.
The Department of Transportation (DoT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have jointly announced that they will review the Obama administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets.
The CAFE programme was introduced in 1975 and is run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It aims, “to reduce the nation’s energy consumption by increasing the fuel economy of cars and light trucks. Fuel economy standards improve our nation’s energy security, address climate change and save consumers money at the pump.”
In January, the Obama administration confirmed CAFE targets that would improve the average fuel economy across OEM car and light-duty truck ranges to 54.5 mpg (about 5.2l/1000km) by 2025. Failure to do so would incur penalties; in 2011, for example, Mercedes-Benz paid over $16million and Jaguar Land Rover paid almost $14.5million in fines, because the average emissions of their vehicles exceeded official limits.
OEMs, including BMW, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo, immediately lobbied the new Trump administration via their representative body, Auto Alliance. They argued that it would cost them $200 billion to meet the 2025 targets, adding between $2,000 and $6,000 to the cost of a vehicle.
“Even today, no conventional vehicle meets that target (54.5mpg), and conventional vehicles comprise 96.5% of the new light-duty vehicle fleet,” said Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of Auto Alliance.
“Only some non-conventional vehicles (hybrid, plug-in electric and fuel-cell vehicles) currently can do so.”
The EPA sounds sympathetic to the OEMs. New EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said, “These standards are costly for automakers and the American people. We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic.”
The previous EPA had argued that the 54.5mpg goal is, “Feasible at reasonable cost, without need for extensive electrification,” and that compliance could be achieved through technologies that are already in production, such as turbocharging petrol engines, introducing eight-speed transmissions, reducing weight, and installing stop-start systems.
One complication facing any relaxation of the rules is the higher emission standards imposed by California, itself a huge market for new cars. There have been suggestions that the federal government will attempt to revoke California’s right to set its own standards, but Jerry Brown, California governor, has pledged to fight any such move.
“We cannot fall back and give in to the climate deniers,” said Brown. “The science is clear. The danger is real. Whatever they do in Washington, they can’t change the facts. And these are the facts: the climate is changing, the temperatures are rising and so are the oceans. Natural habitats everywhere are under increasing stress. The world knows this.”
| 20/03/2017 | Jonathan Manning