ICCT Report Debunks Industry Claims About High Cost Of CAFE Standards

Recently US automakers, led by Ford CEO Mark Fields, have been bleating about how expensive it will be to meet the proposed 2025 CAFE standards. A million US workers will be thrown out of work! The cost of cars will soar to the point where ordinary people will no longer be able to afford them! When it comes to planting a big fat kiss on Donald Trump’s rather ample posterior, Fields is the unchallenged master.

US EPA CAFE standards

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so,” said Mark Twain. And that wisdom applies especially well to the esteemed Mr. Fields. A new report by the International Council on Clean Transportation says that the cost of compliance with CAFE standards could actually be 40% lower than previous estimates.

It claims the technology needed to meet the 2025 standards already exists in the form of advanced turbocharging techniques, advanced automatic transmissions, and the use of lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminium. “All of those are evolutionary changes — just getting a few percent here and a few percent there — from those allow more cost-effective implementation of the regulations” writes Nic Lutsey, the principal author of the report. Instead of an average cost of $875 per vehicle for the technology needed to meet the new standards, the ICCT  analysis says the improvements can be made for an average cost of only $551 per vehicle.

Volvo is already using a combination of an electric supercharger and traditional turbocharging to extract high performance coupled with excellent fuel economy. The supercharger spools up within one quarter of a second to provide boost when engine revs are low. As engine speed rises, the turbocharger takes over to increase engine power at higher speeds.

Here’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind. The formula used to calculate fuel economy for the CAFE standards is the old, outdated formula that used to be used to compute the numbers customers see on the window stickers of new cars in showrooms. Those numbers were wildly inaccurate, leading to constant complaints from customers that the gas mileage they got in real world driving was substantially less than expected. In 2008, the EPA reacted by changing the formula to better approximate what drivers could actually expect.

But — and this is a big “but” — the formula for calculating CAFE numbers was not changed at that time. The 54.5 mpg number the auto companies like to bandy about to scare consumers actually translates to around 36 miles per gallon. 36 is not nearly as scary a number as 54.5 but the car companies are sticking to the “fake news” about how the proposed CAFE number is impossibly high and way beyond their ability to meet.

In actuality, the CAFE standard is quite a bit lower than what European and Chinese regulators require. The US car companies are blowing smoke, trying to terrify the citizenry so they can continue to sell their extremely high profit pickup trucks and gargantuan SUV’s. You see the ads on television all the time advertising those vehicles for up to $15,000 below MSRP.

Hello? Doesn’t that make anybody wonder about how much profit these companies are making? They don’t care a whit about you and me, brothers and sisters, or the environment. They care about the company stock price and their own highly inflated compensation packages. If chutzpah was a commodity, they would have a corner on the market.

The ICCT report dovetails nicely with the recent remarks of Amory Lovins, chief scientist for the Rocky Mountain Institute. He wrote, “So if I were leading a US automaker, and my competitors — aiming to return to the illusory comfort of weak rules, slow competitors, and undiscriminating customers — told me they’ll throw their lawyers at today’s CAFE standards, I would reply: Good luck with that, but my strategy differs. I’ll throw my engineers at those standards, and my engineers will beat your lawyers.”

What the the car companies need to do now is stop running around screaming, “The sky is falling! We must run and tell the king!” Instead, they should be putting their best engineers to work to boost fuel economy and reduce costs. Working the refs may be a great strategy in professional sports but it is inappropriate for the highly paid heads of major corporations. Time to put up or shut up, people, before Elon Musk puts you all out of business.

Source: Automotive News



Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.