2012 U.S. fleet cleanest, most efficient ever — EPA

Source: Jason Plautz, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013

The fuel economy of cars and trucks sold in the United States hit its highest recorded level last year as automakers cranked up production of efficient vehicles ahead of stringent federal standards, U.S. EPA said today.

In its annual report on the fuel economy of vehicles, EPA reported a fleetwide increase in fuel economy of 1.4 mpg over the previous year. That translates to a reduction in emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide of 374 grams per mile.

The increase, which sets the overall fuel economy of the U.S. fleet at 23.8 mpg, offsets a dip in fuel economy in 2011, when mpg numbers fell by 0.2. EPA attributes that drop, in part, to limited production of cleaner Japanese vehicles following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“Today’s report shows that we are making strides toward saving families money at the pump, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cleaning up the air we breathe,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA’s air chief and President Obama’s nominee for EPA administrator. “The historic steps taken by the Obama administration to improve fuel economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil are accelerating this progress, will spur economic growth and will create high-quality domestic jobs in cutting-edge industries across America.”

The gains, EPA said, are in part attributable to the rise in clean technologies like direct injection systems and variable transmissions. Greater availability of hybrids, electric vehicles and other alternative-fuel vehicles also helped boost the fuel economy numbers.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents domestic carmakers, said the numbers — which EPA drew from automakers’ sales estimates — reflect the popularity of fuel-efficient models, especially as gasoline prices rise.

The group said there are now more than 375 models that can achieve more than 30 mpg on the highway, an increase of almost 450 percent since 2006.

“Looking forward, we will need to sell these fuel-efficient technologies in even greater numbers to meet the government’s challenging new fuel economy standards,” the alliance said. “The government can help by encouraging greater availability of diverse fuels from energy providers; by supporting improvements to the transportation and energy infrastructure; and by adopting consistent, long-term policies, incentives and regulations.”

The administration last year set a rule doubling fuel economy standards by 2025 with a target of 54.5 mpg. Automakers have been concerned that the target could be too high, especially that far out, and that consumers may not purchase the most fuel-efficient cars.

Obama will announce today a plan to develop an “energy security trust” that would spend federal revenue from oil and gas production on research in low-carbon transportation technologies, including cars powered on biofuel, electricity and natural gas (E&E Daily, March 15).

David Friedman, deputy director of the clean vehicles program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the latest numbers show the “great strides automakers have made to deliver a better kind of car.”

“The new standards ensure that all automakers will offer more fuel-efficient options in the coming years, relying on the fuel-saving technology that they’ve already developed,” Friedman said. “The 2012 projections show that automakers are rising to the task, and the faster they do, the faster Americans will get relief from high gas prices.”

According to EPA’s data, fuel economy values rose by 16 percent since 2007, accompanied by a 13 percent drop in CO2 emissions.