EPA: Carmakers beat mpg target for 2015

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Automakers achieved an average of 24.5 miles per gallon for their fleets in the 2015 model year, beating a requirement for the year by nearly 1 mpg, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

The 2015 average for fuel economy is an improvement of 0.5 percent over 2014, and a record for the nation’s car manufacturers, the EPA said. The average includes passenger cars, SUVs, vans and minivans, and light-duty pickups.

The EPA said the 2015 fuel economy average is adjusted to reflect “real-world performance,” which reduces the number by about 20 percent over the unadjusted 33.8 miles-per-gallon requirement that was included in the fuel economy standard when the rules were initially put in place in 2012. The figure also includes credits that auto companies are allowed to purchase from competitors that have come in under the mileage requirements to cover pollution deficits.

Adjusted fuel performance figures are what are included on window stickers of new cars.

The EPA said 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that automakers have beat the fuel economy requirements.

“Car buyers can go to the showroom knowing that no matter what kind of vehicle they buy, it will be better for the climate — and their wallets — than ever before,” Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said. “This report highlights that the industry is providing vehicles that customers want, while reaching new levels of environmental performance.”

The finding comes as automakers are calling for federal regulators to roll back a new requirement that mandates for them to achieve a fleetwide average of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025, which would be adjusted down to about 40 mpg on window stickers.

The second phase of the gas-mileage rules, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, are beginning to take effect with the 2017 model year. The rules, which are locked in for the model years between 2017 and 2021, call for ramping up from the current fleet-wide average of about 34 mpg for cars and trucks that were required in 2016, to the eventual goal of more than 50 mpg by 2025.

Auto companies that do not meet the higher emission standards will be fined $5.50 for each one-tenth of a mile-per-gallon their average fuel economy falls short of the standard for a model year, multiplied by the total volume of vehicles that are in the fleet that fail to meet the new requirements.

Automakers have a chance to argue for reductions in the fuel economy standard for the model years between 2022 and 2025 during a review that is set to take place April 2018.

Environmentalists have pointed to the EPA’s finding about beginning of the fuel economy standard to argue that automakers are capable of hitting the more stringent mileage marks that are on the way.

“If automakers are beating current vehicle emissions standards, why are they trying so hard to fight them,” Sierra Club Associate Director for Federal Advocacy Andrew Linhardt said.

Wade Newton, director of communications of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, countered that the EPA’s finding about his industry’s 2015 mpg performance “reflects a snapshot in time and doesn’t guarantee future compliance based on factors that auto manufacturers can’t control.”


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing