According to the 2019 Automotive Trends Report from the EPA, the average fuel economy of light-duty cars, trucks, and SUVs has just hit a record high of 24.9 miles per gallon. Efforts to reduce pollution, increase fuel efficiency, and research new technologies have led auto manufacturers to offer their most economical models in history. The most surprising insight from the report is that average horsepower has continued to climb along with fuel economy. In other words, new vehicles aren’t just wasting less gas but they’re also producing more power per gallon.
Many of these changes can be credited to rising annual requirements for automotive manufacturers that were set in place during Obama’s presidency. The 1975 Corporate Average Fuel Economy rule, which was later revised by Obama, stated that automakers would have to reach an average of 54.5 MPG across their line of vehicles by 2025. Both President Trump and the EPA, however, believed that these rules were unrealistic for manufacturers and set unachievable goals.
“The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a statement. “Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.”
Introduced by President Trump and the EPA in August of last year, the Safe Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles rule seeks to set more realistic standards for automakers.
“EPA and DOT will have those concerns in mind as we move forward with our Safe Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles rule, which would allow the industry to meet aggressive yet attainable standards, reduce the price of new vehicles, and help more Americans purchase cleaner, safer, and more efficient vehicles,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
After all, the cost of constant R&D into more fuel-efficient technologies is being passed on to the consumer, resulting in rising prices for new vehicles. According to Kelly Blue Book, the average price of a new car in 2018 was $35,472—a 2% increase from 2017. And if auto manufacturers are expected to more than double their average fuel economy in just 6 years, we can only expect vehicles prices to skyrocket.
Critics of the Safe Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles rule, on the other hand, believe that the Trump administration is taking a step backward in regards to fuel economy. The state of California holds a waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows them to implement tougher regulatory standards than what Federal law requires. Due to the size of the state, it has been argued that California has used its policies to set standards for the rest of the country.
In late February, President Trump urged automakers to either side with his new Safe Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles rule or follow California’s strict regulations. This wouldn’t be the first time that automakers have had to strike a balance between Federal law and CARB regulations. Back in 1996, GM launched the world’s first mass-produced electric vehicle in the state to meet Zero-emissions rules in California.
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