Sales of gas guzzlers offset some emission gains

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2016

Consumer preferences for trucks and sport utility vehicles may be offsetting the climate benefits of automakers’ offering more cars with lower carbon emissions, U.S. EPA said in a report released today.

The agency’s annual report on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions trends shows that automakers improved gas mileage and emissions for model year 2015 vehicles, with fleetwide fuel economy increasing by 0.5 mpg to a record 24.8 mpg.

Similarly, the adjusted carbon dioxide emissions rate for all new personal vehicles is 358 grams per mile, an 8-gram-per-mile reduction from model year 2014.

Those trends are expected to continue through model year 2016, with preliminary data showing adjusted emissions at 347 grams per mile and fuel economy at 25.6 mpg.

“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,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “This report highlights that the industry is providing vehicles that customers want, while reaching new levels of environmental performance.”

While automakers continue to clean their fleets, their consumers are buying more and more gasoline guzzlers.

Truck SUVs’ market share rose 4 percentage points in model year 2015 to a record 28 percent of all production. And though the vehicles achieved record-high fuel economy and record-low CO2 emissions, at 22 mpg, they still use more fuel than the average new vehicle in model year 2015.

“The market shift towards SUVs has offset some of the fleetwide benefits that otherwise would have been achieved due to the increased fuel economy within each vehicle type,” EPA says in its report’s executive summary.

By that token, automakers known for sedans — Mazda, Honda and Nissan — achieved some of the lowest adjusted CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, General Motors and Toyota both improved their average truck CO2 emissions, but their overall fleetwide emissions rose due to truck market share increases of 11 percent for GM and 7 percent for Toyota.