The EPA Footprint Rule and Emissions

A few days ago, the EPA announced new fuel economy rules, ending absurd policies put in place by the previous administration that allowed new cars to spit out more harmful emissions instead of less. If you read the headlines, the new rules require automakers to achieve a business average fuel economy of 55 miles per gallon by 2026. Sounds like a giant leap, doesn’t it?

It’s sort of, but please curb your enthusiasm. As we reported when announcing the new rules, this number is based on an old formula. Using the new formula used today to calculate the fuel economy numbers you see on your local dealership’s window sticker – a formula designed to more accurately predict what the motorist should experience in driving in the real world – the CAFE number is actually a hair’s breadth under 40 miles per gallon.

Grams per mile vs miles per gallon

EPA emission standard. Image credit: EPA

What many of us missed when the new EPA rules were released is that the standard for emissions is now grams of carbon dioxide emitted per mile. What the agency has done is extrapolate what the new standard means in terms of fuel economy. The vehicles are therefore not obligatory to get 55 mpg. They are required to achieve what is called a “projected fleet-wide CO2 standard”. This is a good thing. The European Union started using one gram of CO2 per standard kilometer years ago. The bad news here is that the standard in grams per mile is 132g / mile for passenger cars but 187g / mile for light trucks.

Image credit: EPA

The EPA expects the combined fleet average to be 161g / mile, but this is based on an expectation that 2026 sales will be 47% passenger cars and 53% light trucks. Is this a realistic expectation? Not at all. Can you name a passenger car that GM, Ford or Chrysler sells today? There are a few, but not many. The Big Three ditched sedans years ago. Gone are the Crown Vic, the Chevy Impala and the Malibu, and the Dodge Dart. Almost all of the passenger cars they make are muscle cars like the Camaro, Mustang, and Charger / Challenger twins.

Take a look at this chart from FRED, aka Federal Reserve Economic Data, which tracks vehicle sales in the United States. Does he support this assumption of 47% / 53%? Absolutely not. The result is that the new standard is based on a false assumption, which will undermine much of the intent behind the new rules.

Image credit: Federal Reserve

Not your average

The key word in all of this is “average”. The fuel economy rules consider two categories of vehicles: passenger cars and light trucks. Treehugger says, “It might have made sense to treat light trucks differently from cars when they were actually work vehicles, but as Brad Plumer noted a decade ago in the Washington post, “Automakers quickly realized they could build more SUVs and light trucks (as well as cars designed to meet light truck standards, like the Subaru Outback) in order to bend the rules.”

The truth is, the vast majority of new vehicles sold today fall into the light truck category. Are manufacturers building SUVs bigger and bigger because that’s what consumers want, or are they building them because they generate huge profits for businesses? According to Statistical, the auto industry spent nearly $ 12.5 billion to advertise its merchandise in 2020. Can you guess how much of that was spent on promoting the sale of vehicles in the “category”. light trucks ”? If you said “most,” go directly to the class leader.

Have you ever noticed that there aren’t many breaks left? What happened? Did the Americans wake up one morning and say, “I’m so done with the breaks. Am I going to buy an SUV instead? Or have the big Detroit bosses said to themselves, “A station wagon is a passenger car. An SUV is a light truck. We can make more money by selling SUVs, so let’s make a bunch of them and advertise them! “

There is more to this story. Light trucks (which include most SUVs) don’t have to meet the same rigorous safety standards as passenger cars. To make matters worse, medium-duty trucks – anything with the digits 250 or 2500 in their name – are allowed to pollute more and even encounter inferior safety standards! Which country, eh? Which do you think is the cheapest to manufacture: a passenger car that meets the strictest safety and fuel economy standards or a truck / SUV that meets safety and fuel economy standards lowest fuel levels? Exactly.

Takeaway meals

The good news is that the EPA has finally moved away from attempts to control emissions by regulating fuel economy. The bad news is that the new rules set standards that are ridiculous and include patently bogus assumptions about the mix of new vehicles in the future. The rest of the world must chuckle at such weak regulations, though some will cry out how tough they are.

Keep in mind that while Ford has partnered with the state of California to support its stricter emissions standards, General Motors and Chrysler have not. And don’t forget that Toyota has spent more money lobbying against stricter standards than any other automaker. All attorneys general in the states controlled by the Red Team can be expected to challenge the new rules in court. If government control changes in the future, these new rules – weak as they are – will be thrown overboard faster than you can say “carbon dioxide.”

The problem here is that the EPA depends on the sale of electric vehicles to reduce average emissions to the point where automakers will be in compliance with the new standards. “By MA 2026, the EPA predicts that final standards can be met with approximately 17% sales of electric vehicles (EVs) and wider adoption of advanced gasoline engine and vehicle technologies available. today. “

In fact, given the recent surge in sales of electric vehicles and the imminent introduction of battery-powered electric pickup trucks from Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, these expectations could be far exceeded. By 2026, concerns about tailpipe emissions may become moot. What a glorious prospect it is!

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