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Landmark EPA and DOT Fuel Efficiency Mandates

Updated February 2, 2017

Thirteen years from now we will all be driving more fuel efficient vehicles, as much as twice as efficient by today’s standards. According to the EPA, the average light vehicle on the highway today gets only 22.7 miles per gallon [mpg]. In order to reduce dependence on foreign petroleum imports and reduce greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions, by 2025, the average fuel economy will, by law, have to exceed 54.5 mpg. This doubles the 2008 average, and is 50% higher than the previous standards set for 2016 of 35.5 mpg.

August 28, 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and Department of Transportation [DOT] finalized the plans to reduce GHG emissions and cut costs. Between 2017 and 2025, this is expected to cut twelve billion barrels of oil from being imported, and saving some $1.7 trillion in gas. GHG emissions are expected to be cut by six billion tons, which is more than the total generated by the entire US manufacturing, power generation, and automobiles in 2010 alone.US Environmental Protection Agency

What does this mean for manufacturers?

There are various technologies that are already available or that are being developed to meet the need, such as more advanced powertrain technologies, lighter construction materials, and improvements in aerodynamics. Diesel technology in the US is pretty lackluster, but manufacturers will have to consider it in order to make the new efficiency standards. Electrified vehicles, including hybrid electric vehicles [HEV] and pure electric vehicles [EV], will become more common sights, especially given that most EVs rank over 90 mpg/e.

Alternative fuels, such as ethanol, bio-diesel, the most common, will become more commonplace as well. In fact, before gasoline was a viable alternative, Henry Ford foresaw ethanol as an ideal fuel for his engines. Almost all of the gasoline in the US is already a ten to fifteen percent blend of ethanol. Flex-fuel vehicles [FFV]can run up to 85% concentrations of ethanol, and with changes, probably pure ethanol. Diesel vehicles typically run 20% bio-diesel blends and can run pure bio-diesel with no modifications.

Other alternative fuels, such as methanol, natural gas, propane, among others, are already being developed, but aren’t currently in widespread use. Manufacturers will have to take the lead in developing and using these new fuels in order to meet the new standards.

Government incentive programs will give impetus to the manufacturers and comsumers to help them acclimate to the new standard and aid the development of the cleaner, more-fuel-efficient future vehicle fleet.

2012 BMW i8 Spyder ConceptWhat does this mean for consumers?

It used to be the odd-man-out who drove the compact economy car, and it was also the odd-car-out that was a fun-to-drive economy car. Everything changes. We’re going to have to realize that, aside from the price of gas, the price on the environment is more than any of us can afford. After the 1974 OPEC Oil Embargo, the US saw an insurgence of fuel efficient compact cars, and in the last few years they’ve become the most common sight on the road.

Alternative fuel vehicles started out the same way in the last ten years or so, and are also becoming commonplace – HEVs, EVs, FFVs, all part of the future. Does this mean that we’ll all be driving wimpy little gas-sippers that aren’t any fun to drive and don’t look cool? Not in the least! Advancements in technology have made possible electrified vehicles that can beat any car on the strip, as well as take long trips with no range jitters. We just have to get used to “The New Cool.” 

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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