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Clean Car Standards Not Too Difficult, Too Costly to Meet, Study Says

cars on highwayAs automakers get a break on fuel economy and emissions rules — the Trump administration last week agreed to review federal rules finalized in January that would increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025 — a new study says the cost of meeting those standards in 2025 is likely being overstated by as much as 40 percent in current debate.

Released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the paper says based on current technology and cost trends, even more stringent standards out to 2030 are feasible.

On March 24, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will hold a meeting on its midterm review of the 2025 emission standards and consider its own next steps. This, in turn, will impact the car market of California and the 12 states that have California’s clean car rules, which together represent over a third of the US new car market and almost 6 million annual car sales.

ICCT’s paper builds on the modeling and peer-reviewed research underlying the Technical Assessment Report produced by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as part of a midterm review of the fuel-economy regulation. It incorporates subsequent industry research and new modeling of advanced vehicle technologies such as cylinder deactivation, high-compression Atkinson-cycle engines, cooled exhaust gas recirculation and other technologies.

“Our research casts fresh doubt on automakers’ claims that the standards are too difficult and costly to meet,” said Nic Lutsey, ICCT program director and the lead author of the paper, in a statement.

Findings include:

  • Previous costs of compliance have been greatly overestimated. Engineering studies and emerging supplier technology developments indicate that costs will drop by thousands of dollars per vehicle by 2025. As such, compliance costs for 2025 standards will be 34 percent to 40 percent lower than projected by the EPA.
  • Conventional vehicles could dominate in the near term. Emerging combustion vehicle efficiency will result in cost-effective 8 percent to 10 percent mileage improvements for vehicles by 2025, compared to the EPA’s analysis.
  • Progress can continue at the same rate out to 2030. Federal standards that get progressively more stringent, at 4 percent to 6 percent lower fuel use per mile annually from 2025 to 2030, can be achieved cost-effectively. Such standards would result in modest, gradual vehicle price increases through 2030, and with two to three times greater consumer fuel savings than costs. Such 2030 standards could be achieved mostly with advanced combustion technology, while also initiating the wider launch of plug-in electric vehicles to 13 percent to 23 percent of the new vehicle fleet. Such standards would shift the new vehicle fleet from 26 miles per gallon in 2016 up to 42 to 46 miles per gallon by 2030.

While automakers did not immediately respond to the ICCT study, Global Automakers, a trade group that represent the US divisions of 12 motor vehicle manufacturers, did submit comments on California’s clean car midterm review urging the state’s environmental regulators to work with the federal agencies to coordinate national fuel efficiency standards.

“Given that the federal Midterm Evaluation is still ongoing, Global Automakers recommends that ARB continue collaboration with EPA and NHTSA to address outstanding concerns regarding the substance of the GHG Midterm Review, such as consumer acceptance, modeling deficiencies, and how increased harmonization and programmatic flexibilities will ease compliance burdens while maintaining the goals of the One National Program,” Global Automakers said.


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