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Government weighs new approaches to CAFE

Automotive News reports on how the government is redesigning CAFE rules.

Automotive News

The federal government is taking public comments on proposed changes to the long-standing corporate average fuel economy mandate. Those proposed changes include considering new approaches to improving fuel economy and, for the first time as part of CAFE, reducing emissions.

New CAFE rules are being hammered out by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department.

The two agencies considered more than 35 technologies that automakers could use to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions during the 2012-16 model years, according to the agencies' joint proposal for the new rules.

That proposal, currently the subject of public comment, is expected to be completed around April, a NHTSA spokeswoman said.

The technologies being considered fall into five categories:

1. Engine.

2. Transmission.

3. Vehicle.

4. Electrification/accessory.

5. Hybrid technologies.

Most "are readily available, well-known, and could be incorporated into vehicles once production decisions are made," the 337-page proposal says.

At the same time, though, the EPA has opened the door for automakers to get credits for using new technologies that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Eligible innovative technologies would be those that are relatively newly introduced in one or more vehicle models but that are not yet implemented in widespread use in the light-duty fleet," the proposal says.

Combining NHTSA's miles-per-gallon targets for CAFE with the EPA's emissions goals could result in overall efficiency improvements.

Said Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, "This is good news from an efficiency standpoint because there's overlap between the amount of greenhouse gas emitted and fuel economy."

CAFE chronology
March 2009: 2011 standard of 27.3 mpg adopted.
May: President Barack Obama sets 35.5-mpg goal by 2016.
September: 2012-16 standards proposed.
October: Public hearings begin for proposed rules.
Nov. 27: Deadline for comment letters.
April 2010: Approval of new rules is expected.

(Source: Automotive News)