As the graph above [via NHTSA's latest CAFE data, in PDF here] shows, passenger car fleet economy has actually leveled off after a brief spike in recent years. Possibly even more surprising is the fact that imports spent a portion of the last decade actually beating the imports in passenger car economy after a 20+ year slide in import CAFE performance [more long-term fuel economy charts here]. These trends illustrate that the sides in the emerging “Battle of 62 MPG” may not as easy to characterize as you might think… as does a new hint from NHTSA about the shape of future CAFE increases. According to the Detroit News, NHTSA is signaling that
it is researching the impact of raising fuel efficiency in the 2 percent to 7 percent annual range.
The agency said it has “tentatively concluded” that 7 percent annual increases is the maximum that is technically feasible.
Before it sets a requirement, NHTSA must take into account a number of factors, including the costs of the regulation and safety impacts.
NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency said previously they are working together on 3 percent to 6 percent annual increases.
The high end of that range would result in the much-discussed 62 MPG by 2025 standard, an achievement the government insists would only cost as much as $3,500 per vehicle. The industry points to cost estimates closer to $10,000 per vehicle for that level of CAFE increase. The battle continues…