Vehicle fuel economy hits all-time high — EPA

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013

U.S. EPA announced today in an annual fuel economy report that model year 2012 vehicles reached an all-time high of 23.6 mpg, continuing a trend that has the Obama administration on pace to meet its long-term fuel efficiency goals.

The 1.2 mpg increase over the previous model year was the second-largest annual improvement in the past three decades, the agency said. Fuel economy is up 2.6 mpg since 2008 and has increased by 4.3 mpg, or 22 percent, since 2004.

“Today’s new vehicles are cleaner and more fuel-efficient than ever, saving American families money at the gas pump and helping to keep the air that we breathe cleaner,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

McCabe credited the record increase to technological advancements that have enabled automakers to introduce cleaner cars as they rush to meet fuel standards that will increase significantly in coming years.

The National Clean Car Program, which was adopted in 2012 after years of negotiations among the auto industry, EPA and labor groups, set a target for light-duty vehicles of 52.5 mpg by 2025. The rule also set first-ever standards for trucks and buses.

EPA estimates that the changes will save $1.7 trillion in fuel costs by 2025, or more than $8,000 in average fuel savings per vehicle. If the new standards are met, they will also save the United States 12 billion barrels of oil.

Environmental groups cheered the record fuel efficiency increase.

“It’s a big down payment on a better future,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign. “Automakers are finally moving in the right direction.”

EPA’s annual report was released one day after National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland, who helped craft the new fuel efficiency standards, announced he will step down as the nation’s top auto safety regulator (Greenwire, Dec. 12).

David Friedman, NHTSA’s deputy administrator and a longtime fuel efficiency advocate, will serve as the acting administrator. Friedman joined the agency this spring after spending more than a decade at the Union of Concerned Scientists.