Most Fuel-Efficient Cars: a Win for Consumers’ Pockets, the Economy, and Climate, but What’s Next?

March 3, 2020 | 1:37 pm
Viacheslav Bublyk/Unsplash
Dave Cooke
Senior Vehicles Analyst

Every year, the EPA puts out a report on compliance with the current vehicle efficiency standards, and the technology trends helping to improve the fuel economy of new vehicles sold. That report shows that fuel economy is at its highest levels ever—and according to our analysis, the regulations driving improvements to every new car and truck sold have saved drivers over $100 BILLION.

Manufacturers are complying with the standards

First and foremost, let’s be clear: MANUFACTURERS ARE COMPLYING WITH THE CURRENT STANDARDS. I’ve written about this numerous times, including about last year’s Trends and Compliance report. But because manufacturers are working with the Trump administration to roll back these critical protections, they want you to ignore the literal TONS of emissions credits they have on hand.

Manufacturers are doing exactly what you’d expect—they generated a big bank of credits, which they are taking advantage of as they gradually phase in more efficient vehicles each year. That’s exactly what the averaging, banking, and trading provisions of the current standards are designed to do.

Fuel economy is at a record high

Historically, fuel economy has only improved when standards have been tightened. (Values shown are lab test values—the “sticker” value is about 20 percent lower today, achieving a new high of 25.1 mpg.) Source: UCS

Stop me if I sound like a broken record because each year I feel like I’m telling the exact same good story about fuel economy, thanks to the strong fuel economy and emissions standards set by the Obama administration. The rules were designed to drive progress across all types of vehicles, and they are: whether you are interested in purchasing a car, truck, SUV, or crossover, you have more efficient choices than ever before. And that has once again led to record-high levels of fuel economy (25.1 mpg), an increase of more than 10 percent since the rules took effect, even as trucks and SUVs have moved from 45 percent to nearly 70 percent of the market.

One hundred billion dollars

Fuel economy has never once improved in the absence of fuel economy standards. But by driving technology improvements, consumers have more efficient choices than ever before, and that means they are losing less fuel. Since the Obama administration’s fuel economy and emissions standards went into effect, drivers have now saved over $100 billion at the pump.

And as we’ve shown, those savings can have a big impact on the economy. When people aren’t wasting money on fuel, that money gets put to more efficient use in the economy, driving tens of thousands of new jobs annually.

It’s working, so let’s keep moving forward

The standards we have on the books are working, and we should keep it going:

The administration is working to roll this progress back, but we’ve got more than 100 billion reasons why this is a stupid idea.

It looks like they know that, too, and fudging the numbers to arrive at a preordained conclusion has (for now) stalled the rule in review. Perhaps if they hadn’t sidelined the experts at the EPA this entire time, we could have all moved forward by now.

This latest EPA Trends and Compliance report is yet one more document on the pile of evidence against their rollback. And it’s time this administration listened to some damn experts for a change.