The story of the US government's Cafe Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards
Passenger car and truck, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicle standards

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you are here  updated 12/22/07

Updates and current new are below
Cafe' Standards, with definitions
Links there are some links below

Updates and News:

Dec 20, 2007 Emissions:  Lawsuits were immediately filed over the EPAs decision to deny California and 16 other states the right to set their own standards for carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles! The list of states is below.

EPA administrator Stephen Johnson overruled the unanimous opinion of his legal and technical staff and blocked proposed California emission rules, saying they pre-empted by federal authority and made moot by the energy bill signed into law by President Bush on Wednesday.
17 states had waited two years for the Bush administration to issue a ruling on an application to set stricter air quality standards than those adopted by the federal government. The decision, known as a Clean Air Act waiver, was the first time California was refused permission to impose its own pollution rules. The federal government had previously granted the state more than 50 waivers.
The emissions standards California proposed in 2004 — but never approved by the federal government — would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks to begin in 2009 models.
That would have translated into roughly 43 mpg for cars and some light trucks and about 27 mpg for heavier trucks and SUVs.
The new federal law will require automakers to meet a 35-mile-per-gallon fleetwide standard for cars and trucks sold in the US by 2020. It does not address carbon dioxide emissions, but such emissions would be reduced as cars were forced to become more fuel efficient.

States using or planning to use California emission standards include California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massacusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania.

December 12, 2006  New fuel economy standards for 2008 models will benefit from new more accurate EPA testing methods.
12/12 New fuel economy standards for 2008 models will benefit from new more accurate EPA testing methods.
(Washington, D.C. - Dec. 11, 2006) To provide American consumers with improved information when shopping for cars and trucks, EPA is issuing new methods to determine the miles per gallon (MPG) estimates that appear on new vehicle window stickers. The new standards will take effect for model year 2008 vehicles, which may be available for sale as soon as next month.
"EPA's new fuel economy sticker ensures American motorists won't be stuck with higher than anticipated charges at the pump," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Consumers can get more bang for their buck by considering fuel use while shopping for cars and trucks – saving money on refueling costs while helping protect our environment."
EPA's new methods bring MPG estimates closer to consumers' actual fuel use, by including factors such as high speeds, aggressive accelerations, air conditioning use and driving in cold temperatures. Model year 2008 vehicles will be the first to receive the new MPG estimates. Currently, EPA relies on data from two laboratory tests to determine the city and highway fuel economy estimates. The test methods for calculating these estimates were last revised in 1984. more from the EPA
Automakers on economy

December 29, 2005 EPA fuel economy ratings are frequently higher than can be actually realized in normal driving and new testing methods are in the planning stages.
Engine size, heavy traffic, increased commute time and distance, the use of air conditioning, vehicle weight all have changed and the current testing standards are out of date.

"The Jeep Liberty Diesel 4WD, rated at 22 mpg in the city by EPA, got only 11 mpg in the test. The Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan, rated at 48 mpg in the city, could manage only 26 -- a 46 percent lower rating. And the popular Chrysler 300 C was cited at 17 mpg in the city by EPA, vs. 10 by Consumer Reports. Other outlets also have found considerable discrepancies in mileage figures. AAA, which also has called for a change in EPA fuel economy standards, tested a number of 2003 and 2004 models and found that a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser, rated at 20 city/26 highway by the EPA, could only achieve 17.5 mpg. A 2003 BMW Z4, with an EPA rating of 21/29, was calculated at 15 mpg.
Current methods used by the EPA assume that drivers won't go over 56 miles per hour in the city and 60 miles per hours on the highway, and that drivers won't accelerate by more than 3.3 miles per second.
Critics say the current EPA tests don't capture time spent idling in traffic; they say many cars spend almost two-thirds of their time in stop-and-go traffic. EPA also doesn't turn on their air conditioning when testing cars or take into account newer accessories that impact mileage. The agency also tests hand-built prototypes provided by the manufacturers." Read more from the Pittsburg  Post-Gazette 12/29/05

August 24, 2005
New rules proposed slightly increase fuel standards in light trucks (under 8500 pounds)
Current rules calls for fuel economy of 22.5mpg for 2008 models, 23.1mpg for 2009, and 23.5 mpg 2010 averaged over the manufacturer’s entire light truck fleet.
The proposed CAFE stadards would base the required economy on the size of the vehicle's footprint (wheelbase x
 track). There would be 6 size catagories and the new proposed standards would required less than a 2mpg improvement by 2011!

Cafe' Fuel Economy Standards, with definitions

CAFE is an acronym for 'Corporate Average Fuel Economy'.
It's the average of a car company's overall car and light truck fuel economy.
The Act was passed after the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo with the goal of doubling economy by the 1985 models (calender year 1984).
The Energy Policy Conservation Act was enacted by Congress in 1975 by adding Title V “Improving Automotive Efficiency” to the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act and it established CAFE standards for passenger cars and light trucks.

Who? National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA), part of  the Dept of Transportation, is responsible for CAFE. They also crash tests cars etc

How? The EPA calculates the average fuel economy for each car manufacturer by a) The manufacturer provides its own fuel economy data, or b) the EPA tests the car it in its Office of Transportation & Air Quality facility in Ann Arbor, MI.

Failure to meet: current penalty for not meeting CAFE standards are $5.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon for each tenth (1/10) under the target value times the total volume of those vehicles manufactured for a given model year.

When is a car a truck?
If a car company (ie Subaru, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Merecedes Benz , Rover, Honda, Chevy etc) wants to sell high-profit vehicles like SUVs, sports cars, trucks etc with mediocre economy ratings they need to offset those vehicles with high economy cars or pay a penalty which is bad for both economic and public-relations reasons.
But American consumers want power! So for example, the 2005 Subaru Outback is considered a truck (see 'define a truck' below) for CAFE standards partly because the new high-performance 4cylinder turbo and 6cylinder models get lower economy!

Define a truck  To consider a passenger vehicle a truck all seats except the driver's can be removed or folded to create a flat cargo floor.
That includes many current (2005) car-chassis based crossover vehicles such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Pacifica, Toyota RAV and Highlander, Honda CRV and Odyssey minivan, Ford Escape and Freestyle, Chevrolet Equinox and Saturn Vue and yes, the Subaru Outback which is considered a truck starting with the 2005 model.
GVWR?  Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. CAFE standards first applied to trucks under 6,000 pounds GVWR, and this was increased in 1992 to 8,500 pounds where it still is. See 'truck standards' below for more details.

Car standards started in 1978
The goal was to double the 1974 passenger car fuel economy average by 1985 to 27.5 mpg in small increments.
1978 18 mpg
1979 19 mpg
1980 20 mpg
1981-84  22, 24, 26, and 27mpg
1985 27.5 mpg
1986-1989, passenger car standards were lowered.
1990 27.5 mpg, where it has remained

Truck standards started in 1979.
1979 17.2 mpg for 2wd, 15.8 mpg 4x4 for vehicle gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) under 6,000 pounds.
1980 GVWR increased to of 8,500 pounds or less.
1919  2wd 20.7mpg, 4x4 19.1mpg,
1992 20.2mpg for all 2wd and 4x4 under 8,500pounds
1996 Congress froze it at 20.7mpg, freeze lifted December 18, 2001.
March 31, 2003, NHTSA issued new light truck standards: 21.0 mpg for 2005 models, 21.6mpg for 2006 models, and 22.2mpg for 2007 models
NHTSA announced 12/2003 plans to review CAFE standards for trucks because the 25year old rules exempt big SUVs like Hummer, Excursion which are over the 8,500 pound limit. Changing the GVWR limit to 10,500 would eliminate that issue.

Hybrids- Alternative Fuel Vehicles
CAFE has special standards for alternative and dual fuel vehicles. These will increase the manufacturer's rating which make hybrids a good deal for everyone because it offsets those low-economy, high-profit trucks and SUVs.

Alternative fuel  vehicles use something other than gas or diesel, which includes natural gas, hydrogen, propane, ethanol, bio-diesel etc. The CAFE standard for these is determined by dividing the fuel economy in equivalent miles per gallon of fuel (gas, diesel) by 0.15. Thus a 15 mpg alternative fuel vehicle would be rated as 100 mpg.
Dual-fuel vehicles use either the alternative fuel and/or gas or diesel interchangeably. The rating for those is the average of the fuel economy on gasoline or diesel and the fuel economy on the alternative fuel vehicle divided by .15. For example, this calculation procedure turns a dual fuel vehicle that averages 25 mpg on gasoline or diesel with the above 100 mpg alternative fuel to attain the 40 mpg value for CAFE purposes.
For 1993-2004, the maximum CAFE increase for dual fuel vehicles in a manufacturer’s passenger car or light truck fleet is 1.2 mpg.

Fuel Economy related, Hybrid and Alternative Fuel research sites

Fuel Costs- what you spend in a year  EPA economy ratings by model A very good Alt Fuel site here in Seattle, Dr. Dans; Government sites on Hybrids etc :  alt fuel newsletter Locate alt fuel filling stations

some sources:

comments,  links welcomed