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Consumers Union to Federal Agencies: Fuel Economy Standards Should Remain Strong In Order to Maintain Consumer Savings and Preserve Consumer Choice

September 21, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 2025 standards previously supported by automakers should remain in place, according to comments filed today by Consumers Union. The comments are in response to the draft Technical Assessment Report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in July.  

“Maintaining robust fuel economy standards helps ensure that consumers can keep transportation costs down,” said Shannon Baker–Branstetter, energy policy counsel for Consumers Union (CU), the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “Automakers have made great progress in meeting, and in many cases beating, standards for today – all while maintaining record sales and profits. We want to see this progress continue through 2025 so that consumers can benefit from fuel savings and increased consumer choice.”

The findings from the draft technical report support the conclusion that the 2025 standards are reasonable and achievable. As the report states, fuel-saving technologies to meet the standards are already available in the market today, and the costs of those technologies are lower than previously anticipated.

The draft report also found that:

  • Automakers are developing and deploying new technologies at significantly faster rates and greater scale than previously anticipated, including improvements to engine start/stop, continuously variable transmissions, high-compression engines, and 48-volt batteries, among other technologies;
  • The costs of these technologies are expected to be similar or slightly lower than initially anticipated; and
  • Automakers can meet the standards primarily through advancements to traditional gasoline engines, with limited deployment of newer hybrid, all-electric or plug-in electric engines.

The comments filed today highlight Consumers Union’s recent analyses that find maintaining strong standards will have substantial benefit for consumers. A recent CU analysis found a clear link between vehicles with higher fuel economy and increased owner satisfaction.  And a separate CU analysis found that consumers could save thousands of dollars in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle that meet the 2025 standards, even at today’s low gas prices.

Increasing efficiency would also align with consumer demand. According to a June 2016 Consumers Union survey, strong majorities of Americans believe increasing fuel efficiency is important (84%) and that the government should continue to set standards for higher fuel economy in cars and trucks (70%). In fact, more than half of all Americans (53%) expect to have higher fuel economy with their next vehicle purchase, across nearly every type of vehicle.

Unfortunately, we continue to hear false claims from automakers that recent low gas prices and consumer buying habits make these standards too difficult to achieve. Car and truck buying trends do not impact automakers’ ability to comply with the standards because the standards are “footprint-based” — meaning that an automaker’s specific fuel economy target for its fleet will depend on the size and mix of vehicles it actually sells. Fuel economy targets are lower for SUVs and trucks, and therefore fleets with a higher proportion of larger vehicles have lower targets to meet and automakers can still comply with the standards.

“Car technologies improve every year and robust fuel economy standards ensure that these technological advances are also directed toward improving fuel economy and helping consumers keep transportation costs down,” said Baker-Branstetter.  “As the technical report suggests, automakers are on track, and the technologies to make further improvements are already out there.  The federal government should stay the course on improving fuel economy standards for model years 2022-2025. When they do, it’s a win for consumers and the environment.”

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Contact: Jason Kuruvilla, jason.kuruvilla@consumer.org, 202-462-6262

IssuesEnergy