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U.S. EPA Aims for Average Fuel Economy of 52 MPG for Passenger Vehicles by 2026

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【Summary】The U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to greatly improve the average fuel economy for passenger vehicles by 2026 to 52 miles per gallon with new regulations for automakers. ​The move comes after President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday aimed at making half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. electric by 2030.

Eric Walz    Aug 06, 2021 9:30 AM PT
U.S. EPA Aims for Average Fuel Economy of 52 MPG for Passenger Vehicles by 2026

The U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to greatly improve the average fuel economy for passenger vehicles by 2026 to 52 miles per gallon with new regulations for automakers.

The move comes after President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday aimed at making half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. electric by 2030. Biden's 50% EV goal is backed by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis.

To reach the 52 mpg target, the Biden administration said it would propose reversing the Trump-era loosening of vehicle emissions rules with a new plan to boost efficiency 10% in the 2023 model year and by another near 5% in each model year from 2024 through 2026.

The Biden administration said the proposed EPA rules would require even higher efficiency by 2026 than former President Barack Obama's administration would have mandated through 2025.

The Obama era plan required automakers to improve average fuel efficiency of cars by 5% and SUVs and light trucks by 3.5% each year beginning in 2021. However, the Trump administration rolled back those requirements to just 1.5% improvement in fuel economy per year between model years 2021 and 2026, which would have resulted in a fuel economy improvement by automakers of just 7.5% by 2026.  

However, the Biden administration would not seek to reverse former President Donald Trump's rollbacks in fuel efficiency standards for the 2021 or 2022 model year vehicles, giving automakers some additional time to work on increasing the fuel economy of their lineups.

The EPA projects the requirements will cost $150 billion to $240 billion through 2025 from higher vehicle costs. The agency said that drivers will save roughly $120 billion to $250 billion in fuel costs and have net benefits of $86 billion to $140 billion in other areas, including improved public health and a reduction in harmful air pollution.

By 2050 the EPA said the proposal would "reduce gasoline consumption by more than 290 million barrels" a nearly 10% reduction. In 2020, the EPA said that the Trump plan would hike U.S. oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels per day.

"Today, EPA takes a major step forward in delivering on President Biden's ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis and create good paying, union jobs," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. "These robust standards are underpinned by sound science and technical expertise, encouraging the development of technology and innovation that will drive America forward into a clean energy future."

Although automakers are ramping up plans to build more fully electric vehicles, the EPA does not expect widespread adoption in the U.S. by 2026 and expects that electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will account for 8% of new U.S. vehicle sales by 2026.

The EPA said through the 2026 model year "the new vehicle fleet likely will continue to consist primarily of gasoline-fueled vehicles." 

But better fuel economy means that people will drive more. The EPA assumes that under the rule Americans will drive 449 billion more miles as the costs of driving declines due to the improvement in fuel economy.

According to the EPA, the transportation sector is the largest U.S. source of greenhouse emissions, representing 29% of total emissions. Light-duty vehicles account for 58% of the emissions from the transportation sector.

Separately, the EPA  announced plans to reduce emissions and other harmful air pollutants from heavy-duty trucks, most of which are powered by diesel engines. The agency is working on a series of rule changes over the next three years. 

The first of the new rules will be finalized in 2022 and will apply to heavy duty vehicles starting in the 2027 model year. A second rule would set more strict emission standards for new heavy-duty vehicles sold in 2030 and beyond.

"Pollution from trucks has been a long-standing obstacle to advancing environmental justice, as many low-income and minority communities live near highways or in heavily polluted areas with frequent truck congestion and idling," said Regan. "EPA is committed to walking our talk and delivering tangible benefits to historically underserved and overburdened communities. Setting clear and stringent standards for truck pollution is critical to delivering on this commitment."

The EPA said its proposals would set the U.S. on a course to achieve aggressive reduction in greenhouse emissions and other harmful pollutant emissions reductions from highway transportation over the long term, which the EPA says will "pave the way for deploying rapidly developing trends toward zero-emission technologies and the substantial improvements in air quality." 

The EPA plans a public hearing about the new rules on August 25. The agency will also take public comments, which must be received by Sept. 27.


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