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New Rules Push Automakers to Boost Fuel Economy Even More

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On: Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 9:19AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

New Rules Push Automakers to Boost Fuel Economy Even More

Everyone who has bought a new car has probably experienced the excitement of selecting a vehicle that reports great fuel economy, only to later realize that in real life driving situations, such as stop-and-go traffic on the interstate, that the new vehicle never quite stacks up to the numbers on the window sticker. Most consumers will be happy to learn that a new revision for fuel economy testing is being created by government agencies in order to push automakers into creating even more fuel efficient vehicles. New mandates could be expensive for car makers in the U.S., but they will create new rules so “vehicle test data better reflects actual fuel consumption.”

In 2007 a panel of experts were gathered by government regulators in order to analyze how accurate reported vehicle fuel economy was being reported by the automakers. Thursday that three-year report was released and it affirmed that the new rules will burden automakers with major expense in order to comply with new regulations.

The panel asked the Envirnomental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise the rules on fuel economy so that tests that are performed will be more accurate in reflecting real life MPG that motorists will be getting.

According to one panel member who is also a professor from Michigan Technological University; "Excluding some driving conditions and accessory loads in determining (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) discourages the introduction of certain technologies into the vehicle fleet."

The panel wrote in its 360-page report. "NHTSA and the EPA should review and revise fuel economy test procedures so that they better reflect in-use vehicle operating conditions."

In December 2006, the EPA announced new tests to better reflect real-world driving, dropping city fuel economy for all vehicles by an average of 12 percent and 8 percent for highways. Those updated tests are reflected on vehicle window stickers, but the results are not used to meet fuel efficiency requirements.

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, stated; "Technology alone is not enough to achieve ambitious fuel consumption goals," she said. "Consumers need to buy the new technologies in large volumes to have an effect, and the cost of fuel plays a big role in driving consumer buying patterns."

According to Trevor Jones, who chairs the committee that wrote the report, "Consumers will need to consider the trade-offs between higher vehicle prices and saving fuel and money at the gas pump,"

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration and the EPA have established future requirements for fuel economy at 34.1 MPG by the year 2016. The estimated cost to automakers to meet the new government requirement: a mere $51.5 billion (of course, that is spread out over five years).

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