New Mileage Requirements are as Pointless as 2007 CAFE Changes

Few people seem to understand that our new mileage standards are not going to make a significant difference in fuel efficiency; they are nothing more than a gift for the agricultural/ethanol/biodiesel lobby.  The new standards have the same flaws as the 2007 CAFE modifications.

Their major flaws are the following:

  1. They exist.  The market already determines that vehicles with poor mileage have difficulty selling compared to their efficient in-class counterparts.
  2. They will actually do nothing to increase mileage.  For example, the 29MPG Chevrolet Impalas that have been selling since late 2005 count as 46MPG vehicles under this new standard.  Yes, that’s right, one of the largest sedans on the road from the 2006 model year already exceeds the 2015 fleet-average requirement by 7MPG.  This is because they are Flex Fuel Vehicles and there is a significant “mileage credit” given to alternative fuel vehicles.  Of course, these vehicles may never have a drop of E85 poured into their tanks; all that matters is that they are technically FFVs.  The new requirements only guarantee that more vehicles will be cheaply modified to attain “Flex Fuel” stickers.  Assuming an automaker does this across all of its models, a 25MPG car average and 15MPG truck average should meet the requirements.
  3. If this mileage increase actually did require 39MPG for cars, people would be going postal.  Your choices would be limited to unsafe, gutless vehicles (unless the manufacturer paid the fine).  Even Toyota pushed back on the original 2007 requirements as it was simply too difficult to squeeze that much more mileage out of an internal combustion gasoline engine in a car significant segments of the market would want to buy.

Overall, it will probably sell a little more E85.  Cynically, I wonder if the President’s roots in the 3rd-largest corn producing state have anything to do with his enthusiasm for this.

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