Automakers Continue To Exceed Federal CAFE Fuel Economy Standards | Edmunds

Automakers Continue To Exceed Federal CAFE Fuel Economy Standards


Just the Facts:
  • A new report shows that for the third straight year automakers have surpassed the latest federal CAFE standards for new-vehicle fuel economy.
  • According to the UMTRI report, CAFE performance has increased by a total of 5.3 mpg from 2008?'14.
  • If the current trend continues, the report projects, automakers will keep meeting or exceeding CAFE standards through 2025.

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — A new report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) shows that for the third straight year automakers have surpassed the latest federal CAFE standards for new light-vehicle fuel economy.

The standards, announced in 2012 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, established CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) targets for model years 2017 to 2025. Since that time, according to the report, manufacturers have exceeded the projected fuel economy levels for 2012, 2013 and 2014, all three model years in which the current standards have been in effect.

Furthermore, note UMTRI researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak in a statement, CAFE performance by automakers has improved by a total of 5.3 mpg from 2008 through 2014.

"If the current trends in annual improvements continue, future achieved CAFE performance is expected to continue meeting or exceeding the projected performance levels — and desired greenhouse gas reductions — contained in the latest CAFE standards," said Schoettle, lead author of the study, A Comparison of CAFE Standards and Actual CAFE Performance of New Light-Duty Vehicles:  An Update Through Model Year 2014.

The latest standards mandate average fuel economy for light-duty vehicles (cars, vans, SUVs and pickup trucks) of 35.5 mpg by model year 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025.

The UMTRI report does note, however, that those performance levels assume that manufacturers will meet CAFE targets through increases in fuel economy alone. In fact, automakers will likely use a combination of economy improvements and available alternative credits to meet the standards. And as a result, say the researchers, NHTSA estimates that actual economy figures will be lower than the published CAFE standards.

According to NHTSA, manufacturers can earn federally authorized credits for exceeding fleet economy targets in a given year, which can then be transferred forward or backward to other model years. Automakers can also purchase credits from each other and apply them to their own averages.

Edmunds says: This report should be good news, both for auto manufacturers and for consumers in the market for fuel-efficient vehicles.

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