By Mike Pickford
Los Angeles, California -- July 27, 2017 -- The industry wide push to improve fuel economy amongst North American vehicles remains as relentless as ever. Following up on the well-documented CAFE standards, US federal and California state environmental regulators released an extensive technical study last week, indicating collision repairers both sides of the border won’t see much drop off in the adoption of advanced auto body materials through 2025.
That means advanced materials such as ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum and even carbon fibre and magnesium will continue to come into the automotive world, and from there to body shops across the continent, such is the necessity to make vehicles lighter if they are to become more economical.
Back in 2011, when the standards were first set, OEMs were faced with the gargantuan task of manufacturing cars able to run at an average of 54.5 mpg. They will be relieved to hear a new target, penciled in for 2025, has been announced, with federal environmentalists down south and California’s Air Resources Board stating a more "realistic" effective target could fall around 50.8 mpg.
Thanks in large part to tanking gas prices over the past 18 months, many buyers have opted for larger vehicles, throwing off estimates released in the initial report and increasing the need for a new target.
OEMs do seem to be taking these targets seriously though, with many coming up with innovative ways to increase gas mileage over the past two years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and CARB, automakers have “over complied” with the CAFE standards for each of the first three years of the program, while outperforming the standards by 1.4 miles per gallon in 2014.
“(This) draft report shows that automakers are developing far more technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at similar or lower costs, than we thought possible just a few years ago,” said EPA Office of Air and Radiation acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe, according to a report in Repairer Driven News. “This is simply great news for consumers, manufacturers, workers and the climate.”
For US-based manufacturers, there are no across the board targets listed in the standards, each OEM will be judged based on if its specific production of vehicles meet federal car and truck targets.
“A manufacturer’s compliance obligation depends on the mix of vehicles that it produces for sale in each model year – if a manufacturer produces mostly larger vehicles, its average standard will be less stringent than if it produces mostly smaller vehicles, reflecting the reality that smaller vehicles often have better fuel economy and lower carbon emissions than larger vehicles,” the EPA explained. “This approach ensures that consumers can continue to choose from the full range of fuel efficient vehicles on the market, and at the same time, it improves efficiency and emissions for all types of vehicles.”
The end goal of all those involved with the agencies’ pushing the standards is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate the impacts of global warming.
Automotive News reported that both environmental and OEM special interest groups have expressed unhappiness with the revised potential targets. While a final, rubber-stamped decision has yet to be made, agencies are keen to push this forward following a usual 60-day period that allows for public comment on the topic. A more formed proposal will follow and an ultimate decision must come by April 2018.