EPA Reports Significant Gains in Fuel Economy During 2012


“Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern this nation. This difficult effort will be the ‘moral equivalent of war,’ except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not to destroy,” said President Carter in 1977.

In its annual report that tracks the fuel economy of vehicles sold in the United States, EPA today said that  between 2007 and 2012 fuel economy increased by 16% while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have decreased by 13%. In 2012, EPA said the one-year increase of 1.4 miles per gallon for cars and trucks was “significant.”

The expected 1.4 mpg improvement in 2012 is based on sales estimates provided to EPA by automakers. EPA’s projections show a reduction in CO2 emissions to 374 grams per mile and an increase in average fuel economy to 23.8 mpg. These numbers represent the largest annual improvements since EPA began reporting on fuel economy. In the past and before the jobless recovery from the Great Recession, improved fuel economy has resulted in an increase in miles traveled.

As always, the federal agency was in endless campaign mode. “The historic steps taken by the Obama administration to improve fuel economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil are accelerating this progress, will spur economic growth and will create high-quality domestic jobs in cutting edge industries across America,” claimed Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. (Read AutoInformed on DOT and EPA Issue Record 54.5 MPG Fuel Economy Standards)

Fuel economy is expected to continue improving significantly under proposed standards that would cut greenhouse gas emissions and double fuel economy by 2025. EPA estimates that the standards will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 will result in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 per vehicle. The program will also save 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 will reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil imported from OPEC every day. During 2012, the U.S. imported 8.5 million barrels of oil per day.

EPA’s annual “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2012” attributes the improvements to the rapid adoption of more efficient technologies, the increasing number of high fuel economy choices for consumers, and the fact that many automakers are already selling vehicles that can meet more stringent future fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. The report indicates that the projected gains for 2012 more than make up for a slight dip in fuel economy in 2011.

Compared to five years ago, consumers have twice as many hybrid and diesel vehicle choices, a growing set of plug-in electric vehicle options, and a six-fold increase in the number of car models with combined city/highway fuel economy of 30 mpg or higher.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have issued the most stringent fuel economy standards in U.S. history, which will require a claimed equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by the 2025 model year. This is equal to a global warming standard of 163 grams of CO2 per mile per new vehicle by 2025.

The latest Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard follows the record increase in government-required efficiency also set by the Obama Administration for 2011-2016 vehicles, when it was then claimed the mandated fuel economy by 2016 is equivalent to 35.5 mpg.

However, the laboratory test used to determine fuel economy is unchanged since the 1970s. In addition, along with big changes in the demonstrated ability of automakers to use electronic controls to optimize test ratings, the actual EPA rating result is more than 25% higher than what a driver will see in combined city and highway travel. This CAFE rating comes before other credits are issued to automakers – and there are new credits galore in the 2025 rule.

Realistically, the fleet driving average will likely be in the 38-40 mpg range. Your mileage will vary from the big numbers being touted. This standard, by the way, is where European fuel economy is right now, so if you want to know what the roads will look like a decade hence, travel to Spain or Italy whose governments desperately need tourist revenues to cover their massive deficits.


About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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