NRDC Launches Campaign for 60 MPG Fuel Economy Standard by 2025

By · September 09, 2010

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The NRDC hopes that the next round of CAFE upgrades will increase average fuel economy by more than 70 percent in just eight years.

The Natural Resources Defense Council today announced the launch of a campaign to raise federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 60 mpg by 2025, cutting the country's carbon emissions by 6 percent below current levels. The campaign will utilize television, print and web advertising, and comes as the EPA and NHTSA prepare to take action on proposals to set pollution and fuel economy standards for passenger and commercial vehicles for model years 2017 – 2025. In 2012, the first Congressional increase in fuel economy standards in more than three decades is set to kick in, mandating an increase to 35 mpg by 2016.

The NRDC and the 18 other environmental groups that will participating in the campaign, hope that the next round of CAFE increases will be even more ambitious than the first, increasing average fuel economy by more than 70 percent in just eight years. In a conference call with reporters this morning, the NRDC denied that 60 mpg is an unrealistic request, with one representative calling the goal “a modest task” for the auto industry.

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In 2009, the Administration announced plans to increase CAFE to 35 mpg by 2016.

In order to achieve 60 mpg, the NRDC says that carmakers would simply have to better incorporate existing fuel-saving technologies into their product lines. The group says that a mix of 30 percent conventional gas cars, 55 percent hybrids, and 15 percent electric vehicles would be sufficient to reach the standard. That would represent a significant increase in market share for plug-ins over what is expected by most analysts. Still, as the NRDC points out, the technology is there and if the federal government forces its hand, the auto industry should be capable of deploying it.

Using excerpts from three NRDC blog posts on the subject, we'll try to bring you up to speed on the details of the proposal and what it means for plug-in cars.

What kind of action is the government expected to take and when can we expect a final ruling?

Roland Hwang: "According to President Obama’s memorandum, it will announce 'plans for setting stringent fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles of model year 2017 and beyond, including plans for initiating joint rulemaking…' The 'Draft Proposed Rulemaking' will not be released until mid 2011 when EPA and NHTSA will begin accepting public comments period from stakeholders. A final rule is not expected until late 2011 or early 2012.”

What exactly does this campaign hope to see mandated?

Luke Tonachel: “To capture the full benefits of cost-effective vehicle technologies, the agencies should ramp up new car and light truck Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to at least 60 miles per gallon and limit pollution to no more than 143 grams of carbon dioxide per mile by 2025. EPA and DOT should also set standards that cut fuel consumption and global warming pollution by 35 percent from long-haul tractor-trailer trucks and the maximum feasible reductions for other trucks.”

Is it even possible for the auto industry to meet this standard given that it essentially amounts to almost a 200 percent increase in fuel efficiency in just 15 years?

Peter Lehner: “Some auto companies say these new rules would hurt the car industry. They said the same thing when the government first required seatbelts and airbags. Instead of listening to those that say 'it can’t be done,' we need to set strong standards so that automakers can harness old-fashioned American ingenuity... A recent study from the University of Michigan confirms that technology is not the limiting factor. Indeed, it estimates that fuel efficiency can be tripled, to almost 75 mpg, by 2035.”

How would plug-ins factor into the mix?

LT: “The release of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf this year is expected to be followed by over 45 new plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle models by 2015 according to a forecast by automotive analyst Alan Baum. An automaker could produce a 60 mpg fleet in 2025 with 30 percent advanced internal combustion engine vehicles, 55 percent hybrids, 10 percent plug-in hybrids and 5 percent pure electric vehicles. That fleet would also average 143 gCO2e/mi when including the use of more climate-friendly air conditioning systems and the emissions of power plants for grid electricity generation.”

Is there any evidence that the White House would even consider such an ambitious new standard?

RH: “Our 60 mpg target is consistent with what the President believes is possible and what California expects. On May 21st, the President asked the agencies to develop 'stringent' standards for cars and light trucks and specifically stating, 'I believe that it’s possible, in the next 20 years, for vehicles to use half the fuel and produce half the pollution that they do today.' California, in its letter of commitment, outlined its expectation of a proposal that would deliver an annual rate of improvement ' in the 3 to 6 percent range.'”

LT: “The Administration has a tremendous opportunity with these upcoming standards to cut fuel consumption and pollution from cars and trucks. Improved efficiency is good for car owners and truckers because it helps relieve the pain at the pump. Better truck efficiency also benefits consumers by helping to reduce the cost of shipped goods. Strong vehicle performance standards are critical for improving our energy security and our environment.”

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