New EPA Reports: Automakers’ Performance Continues to Outpace Emissions Standards

Source: By Rebecca Chillrud, EESI • Posted: Monday, November 7, 2016

“Car buyers can go to the showroom knowing that no matter what kind of vehicle they buy, it will be better for the climate—and their wallets—than ever before.”

That’s what Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, had to say about automakers’ progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, following the release of two EPA reports. The reports, both released November 2, show that automakers are not only meeting the emissions standards set by EPA—they are exceeding them. The first, the Greenhouse Gas Manufacturer Performance Report for 2015 Model Year, states that for model year 2015, automakers exceeded increasingly stringent regulations by an average of nearly a mile per gallon. This is the fourth year in a row that automakers have outperformed the standards, and the sixth year in a row of sales increases.

Record Efficiency Improvements

Automakers have been working to reduce the weight of vehicles across the board, allowing the vehicles to be significantly more fuel efficient. Model year 2015 trucks, for example, were an average of 110 pounds lighter than the previous year. On average, model year 2015 vehicles were 25 pounds lighter than 2014. These weight reductions are due to changes in materials—many vehicles are using light-weight aluminum, like the Ford F-150.

Smaller cars, which are already light, have used different strategies to bring down fuel use. Technologies like turbo-charging, engine downsizing, improved air conditioning, and efficient transmissions have become more prevalent. Gasoline direct injection, which minimizes fuel waste, has gone from being used in three percent of model year 2008 cars to an expected 50 percent in 2016.

While General Motors and Toyota saw their overall fuel economy go down because of higher truck production, most automakers saw improvements. The automaker with the highest overall fuel economy is Mazda, with an average of 29.6 mpg. This compares to the national average of 24.8 mpg. Fiat-Chrysler had the lowest, with 20.8 mpg—but also saw the biggest jump in efficiency from 2014. Despite the range, EPA reports that all of the large auto manufacturers have so far been able to meet the standards.

Still a Ways to Go

“Every part of [the entire American] fleet, from pickup trucks to small sedans, is getting better,” said Grundler. While that’s certainly good news for the environment, the overall benefits are not as high as they could be. Recent low gas prices have incentivized many Americans to choose larger gas guzzlers over smaller, more efficient options. This trend in the fleet’s compositions has environmentalists concerned. “Most of these gas guzzlers are built to carry cargo but often haul nothing more cumbersome than a latte from Starbucks,” said Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign.

In part because of the change in the composition of the fleet, automakers still have a ways to go from today’s record high 24.8 mpg before meeting the 2025 goal of over 50 mpg. EPA believes that automakers are on track to meet the standards, which are different for each manufacturer depending on the mix of autos they produce. But some automakers argue that they’ve implemented all of the “low-hanging fruit” efficiency gains, and that further gains will be more difficult and expensive. However, many cars are well on their way—more than 100 model year 2016 cars already meet the standards for 2020.

For more information see: