There hasn’t been a lot of great news recently, thanks in no small part to the global pandemic we find ourselves in. However, if you happen to be a fan of muscle cars, trucks and SUVs (why else would you be here if you weren’t?) we might have something that’ll brighten your day. As promised for some time now, the Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency announced updated fuel economy standards for the United States earlier this week. The new weaker regulations will require CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) and CO2 emission standards to increase annually by 1.5 percent through 2026, compared to the Obama administration’s standard of a 5 percent increase annually through 2025. According to the EPA this means overall industry fuel economy averages should reach 40.1 miles per gallons in 2026, whereas they were previously required to reach the 46.7 mpg mark required by 2025.
The previous requirements left automakers stuck with massive engineering challenges that ultimately made producing vehicles more costly and complex. Only to have the consumer foot the bill in the end with higher prices. In short, electric vehicles have become fashion items for the wealthy. Or at least, the better off.
Engineers have anonymously shared their umbrage with MC&T over the previous requirements, claiming regulators had little rhyme or reason in how they came up with fuel economy targets. Nor did they advise on how to achieve these targets.
The Trump administration believes that the new SAFE (Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient) Vehicles Rule will aid in driving the price of car ownership down in the United States. Since 2010, the average price of a car in the U.S. has skyrocketed to $37,000, resulting in the average American driving a car that is 12 years old. The Trump administration’s new ruling is intended to lower the entry price of a vehicle by $1,000, with an additional reduction of $1,400 in ownership costs over the life of the vehicle. The new ruling would, theoretically, allow buyers to afford a newer (safer) vehicle, while allowing for more agreeable maintenance bills. Again, theoretically.
The new regulations are sure to become the target of those who are concerned about the ongoing climate crisis that faces the world. The president originally wanted to freeze fuel economy standards at 35 mpg through 2026, however some automakers have opted to adhere to California’s more stringent ruling, while others like Toyota and General Motors have sided with the federal government, and have lobbyists representing them that look for “a customer-friendly shift” toward electrification and other highly efficient technologies. This situation is likely to lead to lawsuits between governing bodies in the near future.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a hugely powerful environmental organization, and they have just published a list of several shortcomings included in the new rules. One of these shortcomings is based on the data put out by the administration, which states that Americans will use a whopping 78 billion additional gallons of fuel. If gas prices average $2.25, that results in an additional $176 billion spent on fuel and 867 million added metric tons of auto-related carbon pollution. The Trump Administration claims that there will be an estimated $200 billion reduction in total costs over the lifetimes of vehicles through MY 2029, including the value of increased safety, which is hard to put a price tag on.
All of these numbers are theoretical.
While the idea of lowering fuel economy standards isn’t ideal for the planet as a whole, skepticism remains that individual passenger cars will be able to make a dent in slowing or reversing climate change. This is because they’re grouped into the larger “Transportation” sector with behemoths such as airplanes, cargo ships, and semi trucks. Emissions regulations on all of these transportation vessels are incredibly lax.
Overall, this ruling could help keep V8 engines around for just a while longer. Though as emissions regulations continue to tighten in Europe and China, the types of powertrains that automakers choose to invest likely still lean electric.