Carmakers boost fuel economy despite rollback — EPA report

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2019

EPA released a much-anticipated report today showing that automakers continue to increase fuel economy even as the agency rolls back those requirements.

The annual Automotive Trends Report found that U.S. automakers have made progress in improving fuel economy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions over the last five years.

The report comes as EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prepare to finalize their rollback of Obama-era greenhouse gas and corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for light-duty vehicles.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the report demonstrates that automakers have made significant strides, but they would still struggle to meet the tightened Obama-era standards in the coming years.

“Today’s report shows that while the auto industry continues to increase fuel economy, there are legitimate concerns about the ability to cost-effectively achieve the Obama Administration’s standards in the near future,” Wheeler said in a statement.

“EPA and DOT will have those concerns in mind as we move forward with our Safe Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles rule, which would allow the industry to meet aggressive yet attainable standards, reduce the price of new vehicles and help more Americans purchase cleaner, safer and more efficient vehicles,” he said.

Environmentalists, however, seized on the report to blast the Trump administration for rolling back standards that have led to measurable environmental progress.

“While the Trump administration is moving to gut the clean car standards, its own data [show] the current standards are working,” said Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles and fuels at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “Automakers are innovating and improving the performance of their fleets, and tailpipe emissions continue to plummet.”

Dan Becker, executive director of the Safe Climate Campaign, similarly criticized the Trump administration for pursuing “rollbacks that slam the brakes on progress.”

The report specifically found that 12 of the 13 largest automakers improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions between model year 2012 and 2017.

New cars and light trucks sold in model year 2017 were some of the cleanest ever, averaging 24.9 mpg. Under the Obama-era standards, new cars and light trucks would have been required to achieve 36 mpg by 2025.

Among the various automakers, Honda Motor Co. emerged at the front of the pack with the lowest CO2 emissions for model year 2017, followed by Mazda Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. Lagging their competitors were Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.