New CAFE Standards

April 2, 2010

Fuel mileage standards raised for cars and light trucks!

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have teamed up to announce new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards which are designed to raise the fuel economy for cars and light trucks to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. This new standard is a full 8 mpg higher that the current standard of 27.5 which has been in effect since 1990. According to EPA estimates, it is expected that the requirements will add as much as $985 to the initial cost of each vehicle. As a result buyers are expected to save about $4,000 on fuel costs over the life of the vehicle. The standards begin increasing in 2012 and build up to the 2016 standard of 35.5 mpg.

The purpose of this increase in the CAFE standards are two fold.

  • The increased fuel efficiency is expected to save 1.8 billion gallons of crude over the life of the vehicles sold between 2012 and 2016.
  • Burning less gasoline also results in less greenhouse gas emissions making this the most significant achievement in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions thus far by the Obama administration.

The new fuel economy standards advance the 2007 energy law, which mandated a 35 mpg average by 2020. As a result of this advancement it is expected that greenhouse gas emissions from cars will be reduced 21 percent by 2030.

In order to keep a "level playing field" for the automotive industry the Canadian government has also adopted these new standards, significantly broadening their impact.

The federal government has worked closely with the automotive industry to create these new standards. The manufactures have many technologies at their disposal to achieve this goal. We can expect more hybrid vehicles, including plug-in hybrids with will be able to travel 40 -50 miles before the internal combustion engine will need to be used. Another possibility is non-hybrid vehicles incorporating the "auto stop" feature from the hybrids which turns the engine off when the vehicle is stopped. In this case the engine would no longer "idle" at a stop sign, it would shut off and then automatically restart when the accelerator is depressed. New cleaner and quieter diesel engines along with smaller, turbocharged engines should also be coming on line soon.

The diesel and turbocharger ideas have been around for a while as you may remember from when the first CAFE standards were mandated in 1975. Fortunately due to advances in engine design and engine management technology over the last 35 years we can rest assured that in most cases these new diesel and turbocharged engines will be quieter, more reliable, and perform better than their predecessors.

The standards which have been mandated by the Federal government closely mirror the standards which were previously adopted by California. California has agreed to accept the new Federal standard as their standard. While these standards are a step in the right direction, North America still has a long way to go before we catch up with Europe and Japan which have CAFE standards of 47 and 46 mpg by 2016 or before.


About the Author

Jim Taddei has been in the automotive field since 1975 and has over 25 years of experience with General Motors products, achieving the designation of GM Master Technician. He is also currently certified as an ASE Master Technician, and holds an Advanced California Smog Check License. He has been the lead technician and team leader at a multi-line dealership. After leaving the dealership he spent a couple of years working in an independent shop and now uses his experience and expertise to help verify the quality of RepairPal Certified shops.

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