U.S. formally proposes MY2017-2025 CAFE standards

  • 16-Nov-2011 04:19 EST

One may complain about whether the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) proposal formally released by the U.S. government on Nov. 16 goes too far or not far enough, but no one will be able to complain that not enough time elapsed from when the proposal was made to when it went into effect. Anyone so inclined will have about two months to weigh in on the fuel-economy figures the government is proposing for each model year from 2017 to 2025 (the MY2025 figure is 49.6 mpg for the light-duty fleet on average, compared with 35.3 mpg in MY2017). Two months from the proposed rule's date of publication in the Federal Register (expected publication date is estimated to be a few days after Nov. 16) is the amount of time during which comments will be sought prior to adoption of the final rule, the terms of which could change depending on the comments received. In addition, the government entities charged with implementing the rule (NHTSA and the U.S. EPA) will hold hearings on it Jan. 19 and 24. The agencies will conduct a mid-term review of the National Policy. Technically, the National Program is divided into two phases—the first covering MY2017-2021, the second covering MY2022-2025. Adoption of the proposed rule of Nov. 16 would apply, in terms of specific fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions mandates, only to the first phase; the figures for the second phase are "conditional" and reflect current best thinking of what levels of stringency would represent the "maximum feasible," which is the criterion by which the figures are set. The agencies will be required to adopt mandates for the second phase after their midterm review, with additional public input to be sought during or after the review. The MY2025 CAFE figure of 54.5 mpg that has been mentioned often in press reports is not the requirement for fuel economy. The specific fuel economy requirement is 49.6 mpg. The confusion lies in the fact that the proposed rule also calls for a fleetwide average limit of 163 g/mi of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to 54.5 mpg; however, the agencies expect that reducing leakage from air-conditioning systems (which will not improve fuel economy) will contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions in an amount equivalent to an improvement in fuel economy of about 4.9 mpg (49.6+4.9=54.5 mpg).

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