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EPA Backs Down from 54.5mpg CAFE Expectations

The folks behind the green car movement have long insisted that cars like the Ford Mustang, the Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro would soon be killed off by the pending CAFÉ law expectations of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, but with 9 years before that 54.5mpg figure will take affect – the feds are backing down on that lofty figure.

While the vast majority of American drivers don’t understand how CAFÉ laws work, many people insist that the 54.5mpg requirement for 2025 will quickly bring about the end of all high performance vehicles. These people often fail to realize that CAFÉ laws are based on a company’s entire vehicle portfolio and it is weighted by sales volume, but all they retain from their local news is that CAFÉ laws will require automakers to hit 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

In theory, the automakers all have more than 8 years to get to that 54.5mpg mark, but the EPA has announced that they do not expect to make 54.5 the CAFÉ requirement for 2025 – instead opting for a lower number based on buying trends in the US.

Buying Trends Force Lower Expectations
When it was announced back in 2011 that automakers would be expected to have a fleet fuel economy figure of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, two things happened.

First, automakers began working harder to improve the fuel economy capabilities of every vehicle – from their super-efficient hybrids to their hard-working trucks. Segments like full sized trucks and muscle cars have seen a new push for improved fuel economy measures which, in many cases, also helps to improve performance. As a result of this push, we have seen major advancements across the industry.

The problem, as the EPA sees it, is that Americans are buying too many vehicles which are inherently inefficient. When the EPA, the NHTSA and the California emission board folks established the 54.5mpg mark for 2025 back in 2011, those numbers were based on a sales mix consisting of 67% cars and 33% trucks and SUVs. However, with fuel prices staying low and these larger vehicles becoming more fuel efficient, American consumers are buying these models at a much higher rate than expected.

Because of the preference for the larger vehicles, the EPA doesn’t believe that the 54.5mpg expectation is fair, so they have taken that number off of the table. With this in mind, the EPA and the other groups will meet to come to a new number for 2025, which will likely be based on a 50/50 split of cars and trucks/SUVs – presumably something closer to 50mpg.

Why Does This Matter?
To many people, a reduction in the CAFÉ law requirement of 4.5 miles per gallon – from 54.5 to 50 – doesn’t make much of a difference. However, if you look at it from a percentage, we are talking about a reduction of roughly 10%. Also, with so many cars creeping up towards the 50mpg mark in 2016, automakers should have no problem getting their fleet numbers up around 50 in the next nine years.

Of course, the key issue is making those trucks and SUVs efficient enough that they don’t pull the fleet fuel economy numbers below the CAFÉ requirements. With the overall fleet number for an automaker being weighted by sales volume, cars like the Ford Fusion and the Chevy Cruze have a much bigger impact on the CAFÉ number than does the V8-powered Ford F150 or Chevrolet Corvette, so as these high volume cars improve their fuel economy numbers, they have a greater impact than the slow-selling, super-efficient EVs or the high performance trucks and performance cars.

Source: Automotive News

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