This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 07, 2010

DOT, EPA Boost Fuel Economy, Set GHG Emission Limits for Light Vehicles

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly established new federal rules on April 1 that set the first-ever national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States. The rules, which will significantly increase the fuel economy of the vehicles starting with the 2012 model year, could save the average buyer $3,000 over the life of a 2016 model year car. Overall, the measures will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil, and reduce nearly a billion tons of GHG emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered.

The final rules, issued by DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA, establish increasingly stringent fuel economy standards under NHTSA's Corporate Average Fuel Economy program and GHG emission standards under the Clean Air Act for vehicles produced in model years 2012 through 2016. The collaboration of federal agencies also allows for clearer rules for all automakers, instead of three standards (DOT, EPA, and a state standard). Starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the rules require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide GHG emissions by approximately 5% every year. NHTSA has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year, reaching an estimated 34.1 miles per gallon (mpg) for the combined industry-wide fleet for model year 2016. However, because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet the EPA standards, the rules require manufacturers to achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile by the 2016 model year. If all the GHG reductions came from fuel economy improvements, this would be equivalent to 35.5 mpg.

The joint final regulation achieves the goal set by President Obama to develop a national program to establish federal standards that meet the needs of the states and the nation as a whole to conserve fuel and reduce GHG emissions. NHTSA and EPA expect automobile manufacturers to meet these standards by more widespread adoption of conventional efficiency technologies that are already in commercial use, such as improved aerodynamics, lighter materials, and more efficient engines, transmissions, and tires, as well as improvements in air conditioning systems. The agencies also expect some manufacturers to pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies such as clean diesel engines, hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles. See the DOT press release, the final rule (PDF 6.93 MB), and the Web page for the EPA climate regulations. Download Adobe Reader.

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