The Obama Administration announced today that it has finalized a fuel economy standard that calls for automakers to meet a 54.5 mile-per-gallon average by the year 2025.
"By the middle of the next decade our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today," President Obama said in a statement released on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Website. "It'll strengthen our nation's energy security, it's good for middle class families and will help create an economy built to last."
The new standard will call on automotive engineers to design cars that essentially double their fuel efficiency in the next 13 years. Lawmakers had previously passed regulations that would push automakers to boost their corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) ratings to 35.5 mpg by 2016. The new regulation will give them nine more years to raise it an additional 19 mpg.
Automakers are expected to meet the new standard with a combination of technologies that include lightweight materials, smaller vehicle sizes, new transmissions, and more efficient engines, as well as hybrid and electric vehicle technology.
Some consumer groups praised the announcement. "The 54.5-mpg standard is a win for both consumers and automakers because it creates a clear pathway for automakers to meet the needs of consumers today and in the coming years," said Jack Gillis, director of public policy for the Consumer Federation of America, in a press release.
Prior to today's announcement, automakers and automotive experts had expressed concern that the 54.5-mpg standard would hurt automotive businesses and weaken vehicle crashworthiness. In an interview two weeks ago, automotive Sandy Munro, CEO of Munro & Associates, told Design News that "hitting 54.5 miles per gallon is possible but it comes at a price. It goes back to whether the general public is willing to put up the cash."
Last year, The Center for Automotive Research predicted that an aggressive new standard would reduce vehicle sales by two million units and cause an employment drop of 1.69 million jobs. The organization said that the higher prices of such cars would cause consumers to hang onto their existing vehicles longer. David Cole, chairman emeritus of CAR, called the phenomenon the "Cuban-ization" of the American auto market, in reference to the workings of the Cuban auto market.
The US House of Representative's House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee has also fought the measure. An August 10 report from the committee suggested the new standard would cause substantial and unrecoverable costs. "This places ideology over science and politics over process," the authors of the report wrote. "This action has serious consequences for consumers in the choice, cost, and safety of vehicles."