They Can’t Drive 54.5
What do the new CAFE standards really mean?
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: November 18th, 2011
On Wednesday, federal regulators released their new proposal for increased fuel-economy standards for model years 2017-2025. This is known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard. Currently the CAFE standard is 30.2 miles per gallon. The new proposals call for the standard to reach 54.5 mpg by the year 2025.
What this means in real terms is that American automakers are expected to produce cars and trucks which, on average, meet the 54.5miles per gallon mark. What this doesn’t mean is that each vehicle (or really any vehicle, actually) is expected to get 54.5 mpg, only that an automaker’s entire fleet attain this average.
Add to this the fact that automakers get to count electric vehicles twice in this bizarre and labyrinthine set of standards (and get additional credits for things like producing more environmentally sound air conditioning refrigerants) and that number begins to mean much less in real-world terms. Not only that, but the method that the government uses to determine mileage is notoriously unrealistic (and hasn’t changed in more than a quarter century), and bears no relation to the mpg rating you see on the sticker in the sales lot.
So whereas the idea that cars should be getting 54.5 mpg by the year 2025 doesn’t seem like an unrealistic expectation (weren’t we supposed to have flying cars that folded up into suitcases by now?), we’ll be more likely to see the most popular cars in 2025 getting something like 35 mpg, which seems to us like a pretty poor goalpost, given that automakers have had more than a century to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.
But given that the average consumer seems content to drive cars that get about the same gas mileage as the Ford Model T did in 1908, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for the automakers to pick up the pace.