TECH: US Regulators Say 54.5 MPG Goal is Not Going to Happen

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Gas Pump, Image Mike Mozart

The government set a 54.5 mpg corporate average fuel economy target for 2025, and automakers are rushing to make the necessary adjustments, but there’s a problem. People love their SUVs and trucks, which skews fuel economy numbers far lower. U.S. Regulators acknowledged the problem on Monday, saying the auto industry isn’t going to hit their lofty goals.

It’s not for a lack of trying on the part of automakers. They’ve been introducing fuel efficient technologies like auto start/stop to help reduce fuel consumption, but it’s not enough. In order for the numbers to work, the public has to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles and that’s not happening at a fast enough rate.

Trucks and SUVs are simply too popular. Those vehicles are also more fuel efficient than they used to be, but they’re still not as good as what you’ll get in a compact sedan. Since no one is buying a compact sedan to haul a boat or carry a load of gravel, there’s a problem.

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The acknowledgement comes from the EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and California Air Resources Board through their Technical Assessment Report. It’s a mid-process look at how the industry is doing after the 2011 agreement to hit that 54.5 mpg goal by the 2025 model year.

The auto industry did get high marks for their efforts in introducing new technologies while keeping costs down. They’re making huge progress, but the government says the original 54.5 mpg goal is no longer a reasonable one.

Gas prices have been down the last few years, so people are willing to buy less fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs. That means fleet averages aren’t going up as far or as fast as the government hoped back in 2011.

They also released the news that the 54.5 mpg figure was never really a mandate, but more of an estimate of where the industry could be by 2025. It was based on assumptions that didn’t pan out. Those assumptions included the notion that 67 percent of the market would be cars, but the actual number is lower.

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Despite the backpedalling, the government still thinks we’ll be much closer to that number than we are today. They now think we’ll sit somewhere between 50 mpg and 52.6 mpg according to Automotive News.

This time, there’s no one to blame for lower fuel economy but the consumer. They’re going to buy what they want and what works for their families and budgets. Today, that means vehicles that use more fuel and make lofty fleet fuel economy standards too high to reach.

Image: Mike Mozart

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin