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Fuel Efficiency

Freakonomics Radio

The Downside of More Miles Per Gallon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The gas tax doesn't work well, and it's only going to get worse. What's next?

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Transportation Nation

Detroit Insiders Dish on Feasibility of New Fuel Efficiency Standards (AUDIO)

Friday, August 31, 2012

(WNYC's Money Talking) As Republicans gathered for their national convention in Tampa this week, President Barack Obama stole some of their thunder by announcing that automakers will have to nearly double the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks by 2025.

The new standards mean vehicles will have to get 54.5 miles per gallon, a steep increase from the 29 miles per gallon now required and even the goal of 35 miles per gallon for 2019.

"The car or light truck you'll be driving in 2025 will not be your grandfather's Oldsmobile," wrote U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on his blog "Fast Lane."

The Obama administration said the regulations will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, cut down on pollution, and save drivers thousands at the pump. The White House called them "monumental" and "historic."

But the Romney campaign was quick to label the move “extreme,” saying it limits consumer choice and relies on unproven technologies.

This week on WNYC's Money Talking, two veteran Detroit watchers examine what the fuel efficiency announcement means for the auto industry and whether we'll really see vehicles getting 55 miles per gallon by 2025.

Paul Ingrassia is deputy editor-in-chief of Reuters News and author of the book Engines of Change, which tells the story of how 15 car models shaped American business and culture.

Micheline Maynard has written about the auto industry for a number of publications and wrote the book The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market.

They weigh in on how President Obama is making his mark on how we drive, what we pay at the pump, and how much oil we need.

This post originally appeared on WNYC's Money Talking, find more stories like this at their website. 

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Money Talking

Money Talking: Fuel Efficiency Standards

Friday, August 31, 2012

As Republicans gathered for their national convention in Tampa this week, President Barack Obama stole some of their thunder by announcing that automakers will have to nearly double the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks by 2025.

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Transportation Nation

White House Finalizes "Historic" 54.5 MPG Fuel Standard in Strategically Timed Political Move

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cars and light trucks will have to deliver an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 according to new fuel economy standards finalized by the Obama administration today.

The White House issued the requirements for automakers' fleets at a heated political moment: Republicans are gathering for their national convention along the oil-rig-speckled Gulf Coast, (full coverage here) and just days ago Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney issued his energy plan that NPR said, "doubles down on fossil fuels" in stark contrast to President Obama.

More pointedly though, this requirement to nearly double the existing fuel economy of small autos comes as a hurricane bears down on New Orleans. Gas prices spiked $1-a-gallon after Katrina struck seven years ago.  So it's no coincidence that President Obama's statements today touted future cost savings at the pump and energy independence from higher average fuel efficiency.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama in the statement posted below. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption."

Here's the full press release from the White House, and below that an additional statement from the Department of Transportation.

 

 

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 28, 2012

 

Obama Administration Finalizes Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standards

Consumer Savings Comparable to Lowering Price of Gasoline by $1 Per Gallon by 2025

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration today finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025.  When combined with previous standards set by this Administration, this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption.  By the middle of the next decade our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today.  It’ll strengthen our nation's energy security, it's good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”

The historic standards issued today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) build on the success of the Administration’s standards for cars and light trucks for Model Years 2011-2016. Those standards, which raised average fuel efficiency by 2016 to the equivalent of 35.5 mpg, are already saving families money at the pump.

Achieving the new fuel efficiency standards will encourage innovation and investment in advanced technologies that increase our economic competitiveness and support high-quality domestic jobs in the auto industry. The final standards were developed by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA following extensive engagement with automakers, the United Auto Workers, consumer groups, environmental and energy experts, states, and the public. Last year, 13 major automakers, which together account for more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States, announced their support for the new standards.  By aligning Federal and state requirements and providing manufacturers with long-term regulatory certainty and compliance flexibility, the standards encourage investments in clean, innovative technologies that will benefit families, promote U.S. leadership in the automotive sector, and curb pollution.

“Simply put, this groundbreaking program will result in vehicles that use less gas, travel farther, and provide more efficiency for consumers than ever before—all while protecting the air we breathe and giving automakers the regulatory certainty to build the cars of the future here in America,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Today, automakers are seeing their more fuel-efficient vehicles climb in sales, while families already saving money under the Administration’s first fuel economy efforts will save even more in the future, making this announcement a victory for everyone.”

“The fuel efficiency standards the administration finalized today are another example of how we protect the environment and strengthen the economy at the same time,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Innovation and economic growth are already reinvigorating the auto industry and the thousands of businesses that supply automakers as they create and produce the efficient vehicles of tomorrow. Clean, efficient vehicles are also cutting pollution and saving drivers money at the pump."

The Administration’s combined efforts represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in decades. Together, they will save American families more than $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, resulting in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle. For families purchasing a model Year 2025 vehicle, the net savings will be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by approximately $1 per gallon. Additionally, these programs will dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign oil, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil and reducing oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025 – as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC each day.

The standards also represent historic progress to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change.  Combined, the Administration’s standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, reducing emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program – more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010.

President Obama announced the proposed standard in July 2011, joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo, as well as the United Auto Workers. The State of California and other key stakeholders also supported the announcement and were integral in developing this national program.

In achieving these new standards, EPA and NHTSA expect automakers’ to use a range of efficient and advanced technologies to transform the vehicle fleet.  The standards issued today provide for a mid-term evaluation to allow the agencies to review their effectiveness and make any needed adjustments.

Major auto manufacturers are already developing advanced technologies that can significantly reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions beyond the existing model year 2012-2016 standards. In addition, a wide range of technologies are currently available for automakers to meet the new standards, including advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories, and improvements in air conditioning systems. The program also includes targeted incentives to encourage early adoption and introduction into the marketplace of advanced technologies to dramatically improve vehicle performance, including:

  • Incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cells vehicles;
  • Incentives for hybrid technologies for large pickups and for other technologies that achieve high fuel economy levels on large pickups;
  • Incentives for natural gas vehicles;
  • Credits for technologies with potential to achieve real-world greenhouse gas reductions and fuel economy improvements that are not captured by the standards test procedures.

###

And from the DOT:

This is a monumental day for the American people, the U.S. auto industry and the Obama Administration’s efforts to make our cars more efficient. Today, DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency are finalizing national standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions for passenger cars and light trucks built in the years 2017 through 2025.

Thanks to their work, the car or light truck you'll be driving in 2025 will not be your grandfather's Oldsmobile. The Administration’s combined fuel economy efforts represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in decades. By 2025, the average car will achieve a fuel economy performance equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon, nearly double that of cars on the road today.

You can read more about these historic fuel efficiency standards on my Fast Lane blog.

 

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Transportation Nation

Average Fuel Economy Drops for Cars Sold in April

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

(Chart via University of Michigan)

Americans bought more gas guzzlers in April than in previous months. A University of Michigan study found that the average fuel economy (according to the window sticker -- more on that below) is at 23.9 miles per gallon. That's .2 m.p.g below the March average, and the first drop since December. Overall fuel economy for American cars sold has been trending higher over the years with occasional dips and drops (see chart). April's average is nearly 20 percent higher than in 2007 when U. Mich started tracking the gas mileage of autos Americans buy.

The authors posit that a slight drop in gas prices spurred this slip backwards on m.p.g. as Americans felt more comfortable plunking down cash for bigger cars.

As you digest this American m.p.g. news, consider a German study from earlier in the week that finds automakers are exaggerating fuel efficiency claims for their cars, and doing it more boldly then in the past. The study finds that in 2001 carmakers claimed 8 percent more fuel efficiency than drivers got in practice. In 2012, that jumped to a 21 percent gap between promise and practice. Something a few drivers have taken seriously enough to sue over, and win.

 

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Transportation Nation

New Fuel-Efficiency Standards Could Mean Big Savings For Texans

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pickup truck in Houston. Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF) As we've reported, a new study quantifies how much American's will save, in money and pollution, from higher-mileage cars hitting the roads. Well, the state that tops the list of savings is the oil state itself, Texas.

The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that U.S. drivers could save $68 billion under new fuel efficiency standards set to be implemented in 2030. Texas drivers will save more than $7 billion under a 54 m.p.g.  standard.

Auto industry analyst Alan Baum says automakers are already creating new vehicles in advance of a 35 m.p.g. standard that goes into effect in 2016. That includes pickup trucks, a popular vehicle with Texans.

"The consumer can pick the vehicle they want to serve their purpose and then find vehicles that have much better fuel economy," he said.

He's also seeing more people buy new vehicles because of high gas prices. "People are coming in and saying, I understand I've got a lot more choice here, there's better fuel economy, and I don't have to make a compromise in buying my vehicle. Please get me out of this thing and sell me a new product."

As for gas prices in Texas, the average price has been hovering around $3.83 a gallon, much less than the $4.00 mark currently seen in places like New York and California.

Texans do a lot of driving, and large vehicles such as pickup trucks are popular modes of transportation in both urban and rural areas.  Federal transportation figures show Texas has close to 15 million registered motor vehicles. The state ranks just behind California in the number of licensed drivers, with over 13 million people behind the wheel.

You can hear the KUHF story here.

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Transportation Nation

Two Charts Show Where Our Cars' Carbon Savings Come From

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vehicle MPG average. (Chart by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, U. Mich)

UPDATED with more recent data.

American drivers are using less gas to get around, but it's not because they're driving fewer miles. Still, we're spewing less pollution per driver according to research out of the University of Michigan.

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in January hit a record 23.0 MPG. That's up 0.8 m.p.g. from December. That also means that drivers are spewing less CO2 on average. The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute crunched the numbers here and found a steady decrease in CO2 emissions per driver since April 2009 and a net decrease of 14 percent since October 2007 when they began measurements.

U. Mich's Eco-Driving Index (EDI) created by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle estimates the average monthly emissions generated by an individual U.S. driver. The EDI takes into account vehicle fuel economy and distance driven. Together that captures the fuel consumed and therefore CO2 emissions for internal combustion engine vehicles.
The reference point is October 2007 when the EDI started, so that's 1.00. As the chart below shows, December 2011 (the latest month available) is a 0.89, 11 percent less than the start point in October 2007.
What's interesting is that average distance driven hasn't changed all that much, so the CO2 savings are coming almost entirely from fuel economy improvements. President Obama has called for carmakers to double their fleet fuel efficiency by 2025.

Trends in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions since 2007. (Chart by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, U. Mich)

*An earlier version of this post used November's EDI data and stated a different level of reduction in CO2 emissions.

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Transportation Nation

Better, Faster, More Efficient -- And Gas-Powered

Friday, November 11, 2011

An exceptionally clean internal combustion engine in a Ford Cobra (Photo: (cc) Flickr user Bfraz)

(Adapted from the radio version by Sarah Gardner at Marketplace) Final details on tough new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks are due out next week. The White House is proposing 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025, a steep increase over the 2010 standard of 27.5 m.p.g., a fleet average established in the 1970s. So how will car companies get there? The staunchest EV advocates might predict that, eventually, electric cars will turn gas pumps into museum pieces and render this question irrelevant, but a few incremental achievements out of Detroit are proving the death of the internal combustion engine has been greatly exaggerated.

"We have a lot of new technology that is emerging," says Dave Cole chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Transportation. It isn't all hybrids and electric engines though. Automakers say they'll meet the 2016 fuel standard, mostly by selling lighter, more aerodynamic cars with smarter engines. Chevrolet for example offers the Cruze Eco with over 40 m.p.g.

"So every gram matters," says Sam Winegarden GM's engine guru. "The lighter it gets, the less energy it takes to move. It all works in your favor." GM shaved 100-plus pounds off the Chevy Cruze Eco to achieve more than 40 miles per gallon for the mid-sized car. The company switched to lighter wheels and other parts, but that's not all Winegarden is referring to. He's also talking about the car's engine. All the automakers are now "downsizing" under the hood.

"In a downsized engine, you have a smaller displacement. The amount of volume of air that the cylinders take," explains Steve McKinley an engineering executive at Honeywell Turbo Technologies. As carmakers move towards the "little engine that could" turbochargers will play a bigger role. The little devices give gas engines a power boost. McKinley says right now that describes only 10 percent of cars sold in North America. But by 2025, "You could see as much as 80 percent of the vehicles being turbocharged. So a pretty broad-ranging impact in order to meet future fuel economy goals."

Turbocharged small engines are common in Europe. And it's just one of the tricks up Detroit's fuel-savings sleeve. GM's Winegarden says carmakers are also tinkering with the internal combustion process. "How efficiently do we burn the fuel/air mixture?" he asks. They're also lowering the suspension on cars to reduce drag, installing easier-rolling tires, and adding devices that automatically shut off the engine when it's idling in traffic. Although they admit, some drivers balk at that one in test trials. "It's like, no, you're fine, everything's cool. It's going to start. It'll go, but you've got to get people used to that," Winegarden admits.

Carmakers are even dumping the spare tire in some models to save on gas. Together, these kinds of refinements mean squeezing about 25 percent more fuel efficiency out of the internal combustion engine.

To go beyond that some small startups are working on radical new engine designs. But achieving that 54 mile per gallon standard for the average across a company's fleet of cars means selling lots more clean diesels, hybrids and electric cars, which now account for just a tiny slice of yearly sales.

"So you're going to see a lot of emphasis on the internal combustion engine for a number of years," Winegarden predicts.

Regulators will re-visit the new fuel standards in 2019. If electric cars and hybrids haven't caught fire with consumers by then, Washington may apply the brakes on that 54 m.p.g. rule. And if a Republican wins the White House next year, some say, that could happen sooner.

Listen to Sarah Gardner's full radio piece, go to Marketplace.

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Transportation Nation

Fuel Efficiency Standards To Double by 2025

Friday, July 29, 2011

President Obama, Ray LaHood, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (photo courtesy of DOT)

Speaking today in Washington -- half an hour after he urged politicians to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling -- President Barack Obama unveiled an agreement that would double fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The president said these new standards "represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The current fuel economy standards for cars with a 2010 model year are 27.5 m.p.g.

These new corporate average fuel economy standards -- or CAFE standards -- were developed by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. The 54.5 m.p.g. mark applies to the average of the entire fleet of cars and light trucks model years 2017- 2025. Some models could fail to meet 54.5 m.p.g, but then others would have to surpass it to compensate.

Under the plan, the standards for passenger cars will increase by an average of five percent each year, while pick-ups and other light-duty trucks would increase an average of 3.5 percent annually for the first five years. After 2021, both would face a 5 percent annual increase, when cars and light trucks will be required to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

"Think about what this means," the president said. "It means that filling up your car every two weeks instead of filling it up every week. It will save a typical family more than $8,000 in fuel costs over time."

The President was joined by representatives from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Volvo, Mitsubishi and Jaguar -- which together account for over 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States -- as well as the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the State of California. Mazda, which was reported to be a last-minute holdout, was also on hand.

Who wasn't present? Mercedes parent company Daimler AG, as well as Volkswagen -- two companies which have invested heavily in diesel engines. (The program incentivizes the development of new technology, and administration officials said diesel is already in broad use.)

The president took the opportunity to needle lawmakers about the debt ceiling impasse. "This agreement ought to serve as a valuable lesson for leaders in Washington," he said. "This agreement was arrived at without legislation. You are all demonstrating what can happen when people put aside differences -- these folks are competitors, you've got labor and business, but they decided, we’re going to work together to achieve something important and lasting for the country."

You can read the president's full remarks here and the DOT press release here.

The new standards, however, aren't loophole-free. The administration promised a midterm review of the new standards, which some environmentalists worry will be used by automakers as wiggle room.

Automakers must pay a penalty for failing to meet CAFE standards. According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration's website: "The penalty for failing to meet CAFE standards recently increased from $5.00 to $5.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon for each tenth under the target value times the total volume of those vehicles manufactured for a given model year. Since 1983, manufacturers have paid more than $500 million in civil penalties. Most European manufacturers regularly pay CAFE civil penalties ranging from less than $1 million to more than $20 million annually. Asian and domestic manufacturers have never paid a civil penalty." Details about CAFE fines can be found here (pdf).

A White House graphic of the new fuel economy standards (image courtesy of the White House)

The White House also released a report (PDF) about the new fuel economy standards.

The president has some other changes he'd like to see car manufacturers adopt. "It’s only a matter of time until Malia gets her learner’s permit," he said. "So I’m hoping to see one of those models that gets a top speed of 15 miles an hour (and) the ejector seat anytime boys are in the car."

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Transportation Nation

It's Official. Obama Announces 54.5 MPG Fuel Efficiency Standards

Friday, July 29, 2011

We knew this was coming, but here's the official announcement just out from the DOT on President Obama's new tougher Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards.

Full report coming soon.

Press Release from the DOT:

President Obama Announces Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standard
Consumers will save $1.7 trillion at the pump, $8K per vehicle by 2025

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama today announced a historic agreement with twelve major automakers to pursue the next phase in the Administration’s national vehicle program, increasing fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. The President was joined by GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Volvo, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Jaguar – which together account for over 90% of all vehicles sold in the United States – as well as the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the State of California, who were integral to developing this agreement.

“This agreement on fuel standards represents the most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “Many of these companies were part of an agreement we reached two years ago to raise the fuel efficiency of their cars over the next five years. By 2025, the average fuel economy of their vehicles will nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon.”

Building on the Obama administration’s agreement for Model Years 2012-2016 vehicles, which will raise fuel efficiency to 35.5 mpg and begin saving families money at the pump this year, the next round of standards will require performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

These programs combined with the model year 2011 light truck standard represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in three decades and span Model Years 2011 to 2025. Together, they will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars at the pump, and by 2025 result in an average fuel savings of over $8,000 per vehicle. Additionally, these programs will dramatically cut oil consumption, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 reduce oil consumption by more than 4 million barrels of oil a day – more than America currently imports from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela, and Russia combined.

The standards also curb carbon pollution, cutting more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the life of the program – equivalent to an entire year’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions from the United States. The oil savings, consumer, and environmental benefits of this comprehensive program are detailed in a new report, Driving Efficiency:  Cutting Costs for Families at the Pump and Slashing Dependence on Oil, which the Administration released today.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have worked closely with auto manufacturers, the state of California, environmental groups, and other stakeholders for several months to ensure these standards are achievable, cost-effective and preserve consumer choice.  The program would increase the stringency of standards for passenger cars by an average of five percent each year. The stringency of standards for pick-ups and other light-duty trucks would increase an average of 3.5 percent annually for the first five model years and an average of five percent annually for the last four model years of the program, to account for the unique challenges associated with this class of vehicles.

“This is another important step toward saving money for drivers, breaking our dependence on imported oil and cleaning up the air we breathe,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “American consumers are calling for cleaner cars that won’t pollute their air or break their budgets at the gas pump, and our innovative American automakers are responding with plans for some of the most fuel efficient vehicles in our history.”

“These standards will help spur economic growth and job creation, protect the environment, and strengthen our national security by reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Working together, we are setting the stage for a new generation of clean vehicles.”

 

A national policy on fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emissions provides regulatory certainty and flexibility that reduces the cost of compliance for auto manufacturers while addressing oil consumption and harmful air pollution. Consumers will continue to have access to a diverse fleet and can purchase the vehicle that best suits their needs.

EPA and NHTSA are developing a joint proposed rulemaking, which will include full details on the proposed program and supporting analyses, including the costs and benefits of the proposal and its effects on the economy, auto manufacturers, and consumers. After the proposed rules are published in the Federal Register, there will be an opportunity for public comment and public hearings. The agencies plan to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the end of September 2011. California plans on adopting its proposed rule in the same time frame as the federal proposal.

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Transportation Nation

LaHood: New Fuel Efficiency Standards Coming This Fall; Announcement About Who Wins FL's HSR Money To Come Next Week

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ray LaHood, speaking to reporters via conference call

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said on a conference call this afternoon that the Obama Administration hopes to make an announcement about new fuel efficiency standards as early as this fall.

LaHood said he knows gas prices are a hot topic right now and that "high gasoline prices are killing family budgets." He added that President Obama has "told everybody in this administration (it's) 'all hands on deck' when it comes to getting gasoline prices down and getting people into more fuel-efficient cars."

Goals for the government-dictated fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks (also known as corporate average fuel economy, or the CAFE standard) increase fuel efficiency by 5% a year from 2012 through 2016. Automakers are financially penalized if they don't meet these standards.

LaHood said arriving at the post-2016 CAFE standard is a work in progress, and he resisted attempts to be pinned down to what that number might be. "If I knew what the standard was, I'd be announcing it today," he said. "Based on the work that people are doing, we'll have an announcement in the fall."  When pressed, he said "I don't even know what the number is! The number is being developed."

TN also asked the secretary when an announcement would be made about awarding the $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money that Florida rejected earlier this year. LaHood would only say "next week."  Illinois politicians said this week that that state had won $186 million to make improvements on its Chicago-to-St. Louis rail corridor.

The call was held to preview President Obama's trip to Indianapolis tomorrow to visit Allison Transmission, a company that builds hybrid propulsion systems. Heather Zichal, the deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate policy, was also on the call.

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Transportation Nation

Chevy: Early Data, Volt Drivers Go More Than 1,000 Miles Per Fill-Up

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Steve Wojtanek in the driveway next to his Chevrolet Volt in Boca Raton, Florida. Wojtanek says he averages 122 miles per gallon, and visits the gas station about once a month. (Photo: Chevrolet News)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Chevy announced today that the company's tracking of early Volt owners shows they consistently go more than 1,000 miles between gas fill-ups.

Chevy also released testimonials of drivers who were especially fuel efficient in their driving habits. “On April 11, I had to buy gas for the first time since filling up on Jan. 9,said Volt owner Gary Davis of Greenville, S.C. “In my Volt I’ve driven 4,600 miles on 8.4 gallons of gas. That’s an impressive 547 mpg that I am achieving with my Volt.”

With more typical driving conditions the Volt has still performed impressively on fuel and energy efficiency. Motor Trend tested the vehicle and got 127.6 miles per gallon. Those numbers don't factor in the cost of electricity for charging the battery, something the owner does have to pay for along with gas. Car and Driver computed a 74 miles per gallon equivalence when factoring in the electricity usage during its test of the Volt.

The Volt has a battery with a range of 20-50 miles, after that, a gas powered engine-generator kicks in allowing for longer trips. The typical urban car trip is less than 40 miles. Chevy tells Transportation Nation, they have sold 1,527 Volts through March 2011.

Chevy is releasing these testimonials come as fuel-efficient cars are in the spotlight at the NY Auto Show this week—where the Volt was named the World Green Car today—and following reports of a pair of electric cars catching fire while charging in Connecticut. Right now though, it appears the Volt involved was likely the victim, not the culprit of the two car blaze.

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Transportation Nation

Effort to Create Hybrid Taxi Fleet Gets New Legislative Boost

Monday, March 28, 2011

(Image: CC by Flickr user bearclau)

(New York -- Brian Zumhagen, WNYC) New York City's effort to create a fuel-efficient taxi fleet is getting a new legislative boost. The City's plan to require new taxi's to be  hybrids was struck down by a federal appeals court. Now, members of New York's congressional delegation are looking to change the federal law to allow cities to set their own fuel-efficiency standards for taxis. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the Green Taxis Act will be re-introduced in both houses of Congress this week.

"This is a common-sense proposal that would update antiquated laws and give New York the authority, and other cities around the country the authority, to set their own fuel emissions standards," she said.

Under current law, only federal officials can regulate those standards, and that was the reason a federal appeals court rejected New York City's policy last summer. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the city's appeal last month.

Gillibrand and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) originally introduced their bill in 2009.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade issued a statement saying the city can improve fuel efficiency without the legislation, if officials simply work with the taxi industry and permit owners to purchase next generation commercially-built taxis.

Via WNYC.

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Transportation Nation

New Fuel Efficiency Standards Announced for Trucks

Monday, October 25, 2010

(Washington, D.C.—Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Proposed new government fuel efficiency standards for three categories of trucks are out today. Federal agencies say the rules should boost fuel efficiency by 15 - 20 percent  over the next eight years.

Officials say their goal is to reduce CO2 emissions and improve fuel efficiency in combination tractors, heavy duty pickup trucks, and vans and vocational vehicles like buses.

The new regulations, released by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would take effect starting in 2014. They include new engine and tire standards intended to make commercial fleets more fuel efficient.

The agencies are going for a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and fuel use in combination trucks by 2018. Heavy duty pickups running on diesel fuel are expected to achieve a 15 percent reduction by 2018, while gas-powered heavy duty trucks and vans should cut their fuel use and emissions by 10 percent, according to DOT.

The rules go after a range of fuel-wasting problems in truck fleets, including poor aerodynamics, leaky air conditioners, and sub-optimal tire performance.

Of course, all of these new standards will likely raise short-term costs for trucking owners. Officials say up-front costs will more than pay for themselves by cutting fuel costs over several years.

There’s a 60-day public comment period before regulators set about making the rules final. Read, if you dare, the entire 673-page of proposed regulations here.

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