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Monday, 22 August 2011

What New Emissions Standards Will Mean to Automakers

Technology Review
Aug 22, 2011

Late last month, the Obama administration and 13 automakers announced plans to double the U.S. corporate average fleet economy (CAFE) standard from 27.3 miles per gallon in 2011 to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The new goal will require gradual improvements, beginning in 2017, in the efficiency of passenger cars and light trucks, along with reductions in their greenhouse-gas emissions.

Automotive fuel economy regulations in the United States have rapidly grown more stringent since 2007, when President Bush signed legislation calling for new vehicle fleets to average 35.5 mpg by 2020. (For the previous two decades, the standard held steady at around 25 mpg.) In 2009, the Obama administration moved the target date for 35.5 mpg up to 2016.

Though automakers resisted past increases in the CAFE standard, this time they've been much more supportive. It helps that the administration set less stringent standards for pickup trucks than for passenger cars. And a midterm review is scheduled, to reëvaluate the feasibility of the rules for 2022 to 2025 before finalizing them. Perhaps most important, some experts say, is that there's enough room for improvements to power trains and auto-body designs—and enough time to make those improvements—that automakers can satisfy the new rules without counting on major technological breakthroughs.
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