The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department sent a notice last Friday to the White House regulatory review office detailing plans to extend fuel economy and emissions rules for model years 2017 through 2025, according to a website that tracks federal rulemaking.
President Obama in May directed EPA and DOT to issue a notice of intent to issue a proposed rule by Sept. 30 to take off where the last set of rules ends. The administration finalized joint rulemaking earlier this year that boosted fuel economy and set the first-ever federal greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks beginning with model year 2012 and running through 2016.
In a memorandum signed in May, Obama said the next round of standards should achieve “substantial annual progress in reducing transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption” and “strengthen the industry and enhance job creation in the United States.” However, the president did not lay out specific mpg targets.
A coalition of 20 leading environmental groups lead by the National Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club have called on the administration to set a target of 60 miles per gallon by 2025 but officials have said that is unlikely, Scientific American reports.
Environmental and auto industry experts close to the process believe EPA and DOT will propose a yearly average increase ranging from 3 percent to 6 percent. The 60 mpg figure would require a roughly 6 percent annual improvement.
If the 60 mpg standard were met, the coalition estimates the U.S. would cut oil dependence nearly 50 billion gallons annually and carbon emissions by more than 500 metric tons per year by 2030.
Standards imposed last year require automakers to achieve 35.5 mpg by 2016, up 42 percent from current levels.
Automotive experts and scientists say efficiency goals in coming years can be achieved with lighter vehicle construction, cleaner burning gasoline engines and better performing transmission systems.
Major automakers know they will have to do more, but they want a scale that does not dramatically hike vehicle production costs or a mandate that commits them to a specific approach.
“What we’re hoping for is that the regulation recognizes some of the uncertainty that still exists and allows flexibility to implement new technologies,” Charles Territo, a spokesman for the chief manufacturing trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Scientific American.
Many cars, particularly those made by Japanese companies, like Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co, already meet or exceed the U.S. 2016 standard and Korean-made models, such as those produced by Hyundai Motor are fast closing the gap.
A big unknown going forward is whether the public will embrace electric vehicles, which will receive a “0” emissions rating from the government during their introduction to the market. The most fuel efficient vehicles on the road today, gasoline/electric hybrids, represent only a fraction of retail sales.
General Motors Co, which is government-owned, is betting its future on electric cars. Its Chevy Volt is due out later this year. Nissan Motor Co is also moving ahead with its electric Leaf. European automakers, like Volkswagen AG, are also rolling out more efficient vehicles, like the 2011 Jetta, with changes to conventional technology.