CAFE changes might bring bigger vehicles instead of smaller ones

Article by Christian A., on December 13, 2011

Due to “a loophole” in the new formula for calculating miles per gallon under the proposed changes to corporate average fuel economy standards, vehicles may become bigger rather than smaller by the 2014 model year, according to a study by the University of Michigan. Researchers said that if automakers decide to act upon this incentive, it would be harder to achieve the policy’s goal of cutting fuel consumption. Automakers are sure to try to exploit the unintended consequence of the new policy, said Steven Skerlos, an associate professor in the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering.

He explained that for “just about all the scenarios, the car got bigger.” He said that while there’s a difference in what can be modeled in a computer to reality, the research indicates that it could happen. Released just last week, the study utilized simulations to imitate real-life decisions that automakers have to make in redesigning vehicles to comply with the changing standards.

Last July, the Obama administration said that it aims to raise the U.S. fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks to 54.5 mpg in the 2025 model year from 35.5 mpg in 2016. According to estimates by the U.S. EPA and the Department of Transportation, the changes will help lower the country’s reliance on oil by about 12 billion barrels between 2011 and 2016. This will also lessen oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels each day by 2025.

The traditional CAFE standards were criticized by U.S. automakers to be unfair, saying that their Asian competitors (which build smaller and lighter vehicles) were awarded while their truck- and SUV-oriented markets would be disadvantaged. [source: Autonews]

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