New Real-World Fuel Mileage Standard Rising to 38 mpg in 2031

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The Biden administration has unveiled new federal regulations that mandate new vehicles sold in the United States to achieve an average fuel economy of 38 miles per gallon (MPG) in real-world driving conditions by 2031. This is a considerable increase from the current average of around 29 MPG.

Incremental Increase in Fuel Economy

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the new rules will require passenger cars to improve fuel efficiency by 2% annually from model years 2027 to 2031. Similarly, SUVs and other light trucks will see a 2% annual increase from model years 2029 to 2031. These figures are slightly lower than the initial proposal but provide the auto industry with greater flexibility to focus on the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

Balancing EV Goals with Industry Flexibility

President Biden aims for 50% of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2030 to be electric as part of a broader strategy to combat climate change. Despite the focus on EVs, gasoline-powered vehicles remain a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The new fuel mileage standards are designed to complement the push towards electrification without imposing excessive costs on consumers.

The new standards are projected to save nearly 70 billion gallons of gasoline by 2050 and prevent over 710 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted the dual benefits of these standards, noting that they will save consumers over $600 in gasoline costs over the lifetime of their vehicles while reducing pollution and reliance on foreign oil.

NHTSA’s new rules are designed to align with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) updated tailpipe emission standards. This harmonization ensures that automakers adhere to stringent regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by promoting more efficient fuel consumption.

Industry and Environmental Reactions

The response to the new standards has been mixed. John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, acknowledged that the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules align well with federal tailpipe regulations. However, he questioned the necessity of CAFE standards in a future dominated by electric vehicles.

Conversely, Dan Becker from the Center for Biological Diversity criticized the new rules as inadequate, arguing that they fall short of the maximum feasible improvements in fuel economy and fail to hold automakers accountable for reducing emissions from gas-powered vehicles.

Commercial Vehicle Requirements

In addition to passenger cars and light trucks, the new rule mandates a 10% annual improvement in fuel economy for commercial pickup trucks and work vans. Automakers are expected to meet these standards through a combination of electric vehicles, hybrids, and improvements in traditional gas and diesel engines.

These new fuel economy standards represent a critical step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation future in the United States. While there are differing opinions on their adequacy, the regulations aim to balance immediate improvements in fuel efficiency with the long-term goal of widespread electrification of the vehicle fleet.


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