EPA: Automakers Too Reliant on Credits for Emissions Compliance

The Environmental Protection Agency released its annual assessment of new vehicles yesterday, and it was filled with good news. On average, fuel economy continues to improve. Cars are not getting heavier, horsepower keeps going up, and every major manufacturer managed was in compliance with greenhouse gas standards through the 2017 model year. However, the EPA also said it’s concerned that manufacturers frequently tap into stored-up regulatory credits to make this possible.

“Most large manufacturers used banked credits, along with technology improvements, to maintain compliance in model year 2017. Three large manufacturers achieved compliance based on the emission performance of their vehicles, without utilizing additional banked credits,” the agency explained.

The ability to bank credits by over-complying in a given year is seen by some environmental groups as a way for corporations to shirk their responsibility to the planet. But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s concerns regarding the system rest elsewhere.

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MPG Update: We're Getting Better, Just Not Quickly Enough to Please the Eco Crowd

Chances are, the vehicle you drove 10 or 20 years ago returned worse fuel economy than the one sitting in your driveway today. Significantly worse fuel economy.

While this may not be true if you went from strapped Corolla owner to affluent Navigator enthusiast over the past decade or so, it’s true for the average vehicle sold today. In a much-cited report on fleet fuel economy and emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency claims new vehicles hit a record in 2017, with a significant MPG bump looking likely for 2018.

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Ford Opens Investigation Into Fuel Economy Testing Procedure, Hires Outside Help

Ford Motor Company has reason to believe a problem may exist in how the company calculates vehicle fuel economy and emissions.

The automaker has hired an outside firm to help get to the bottom of the issue, which was raised by employees, and has already notified the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board of the probe, Ford claims. It insists this isn’t about sneaky defeat devices; rather, road load is the issue here.

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The Waiting Game: List of Automakers Standing in Line for EPA Approval Grows

As previously reported, vehicle certifications have been suspended during the current government shutdown. While this is normally a non-issue, the extended length of this federal deferment is starting to spook automakers.

Fiat Chrysler has already bemoaned the situation, as it’s currently waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to approve its Ram Heavy Duty pickups. While the situation hasn’t become truly dire, other automakers have begun expressing concerns of their own.

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Fiat Chrysler Worried Government Shutdown Could Delay New Products

Unless you’re employed by Uncle Sam, you may not have noticed the current government shutdown impacting your life by any meaningful margin. That, of course, has not kept the media from spending the entire month scaremongering and trying to place blame (Spoiler: It’s everyone’s fault, as these shutdowns happen anytime Congress has to agree on a new budget, and partisan politics keeps them from working toward any cooperative solutions).

While this is the longest partial shutdown of the U.S. government in modern history (take that, 1996), it hasn’t been quite as terrifying as the internet or television would lead you to believe. However, we’re starting to get a little uneasy at this point — because it looks like the situation could delay the launch of the Ram Heavy Duty we’ve prattled on about for the past two days.

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Trump Officially Nominates Andrew Wheeler to Head the EPA

President Donald Trump nominated Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, setting him up to permanently fill a position he’s already occupied since July.

Trump praised Wheeler in November his “fantastic job” as acting administrator of the EPA following the July 2018 resignation of the agency’s former scandal-ridden head, Scott Pruitt. This month, the president submitted Wheeler’s formal nomination to the Senate. There’s still a ways to go before the ex-lobbyist’s confirmation, though, as the Senate will no doubt be critical of his relatively recent ties to the coal industry.

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California Preps Formal Response in Gas War, Calls MPG Rollback 'Unlawful'

California and 18 other states plan to formally vent their grievances over the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel economy standards at 2020 levels on Friday. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have called for public comments on the matter, with the deadline taking place at the end of this week. Apparently, California wants its voice to be the last one heard.

“They are grossly derelict in not trying to move the dial forward in cleaning the air and the environment,” California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “The situation continues to get worse and requires action now, and not for us to stand pat.”

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Getting Out the Corn Vote: Trump Proposes Lifting Summer E15 Gasoline Ban

If you’re like this writer, seeing “may contain up to 10 percent ethanol” at the gas pump leaves you frowning, then reaching for the premium nozzle. It’s not just that 91 octane helps my tiny turbo run better — I don’t like paying through the nose (as I do for all grades) for slightly less energy by volume.

Should President Donald Trump move forward with reported changes to U.S. ethanol laws, you can expect to see more corn alcohol at your local gas station. And I don’t mean Jim Beam.

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California Prepares Counteroffensive in Great American Gas War, Asks Automakers For Ammo

California is considering a formal, public counter-proposal to the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the existing fuel economy requirements for passenger vehicles. Gearing up for the launch, the state has requested that automakers present detailed information on their future products and explain why they’re seeking relief from fueling mandates they previously agreed to adhere to.

“They’ve never submitted to us any information that would back up those claims in any detail to help us craft a solution,” Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, (CARB), said in a Thursday interview with Bloomberg.

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California Vows to Work Toward National Emissions Standard (While Voting to Keep Its Own)

California regulators voted on Friday to mandate an adherence to Obama-era federal vehicle emissions standards for cars sold in the state, regardless of Trump administration efforts to weaken the standards. It’s the latest salvo in a war between the Golden State and the current administration, which aims to strip California of its ability to self regulate its automotive emission rules and roll back the corporate average fuel economy for the entire country.

However, the Trump team doesn’t appear to be completely ignoring the environment. In a 500-page environmental impact statement from the NHTSA on the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026, numerous inclusions acknowledge the existence of climate change. But the takeaway from the report is that the NHTSA doesn’t seem to feel that passenger vehicles will make much of a difference.

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EPA Finally Rates the Full 2019 Ram 1500 Lineup

For the majority of this year, Ram fans have been limited to a single choice of powertrain in the new 2019 Ram 1500 pickup truck. The stalwart and sonorous 5.7-liter Hemi V8 was the sole available selection for ages, with the eTorque-assisted V6 and V8 motors scarce on the ground until recently.

The feds have at last doffed their cloak from over the eTorque V6 and officially stamped an EPA mileage rating on it. Buyers satisfied with a two-wheel-drive truck powered by six cylinders will find themselves in command of a pickup rated at 25 mpg.

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White House and California Still Discussing Emission Rules, Incredibly

Considering that the Trump administration’s Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles proposal specifically calls for the revocation of California’s power to set its own emissions rules, it’s miraculous that the Golden State is still willing to discuss the issue. But here we are.

Administration officials and members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) emerged from a meeting on Wednesday, saying they were working toward resolving their differences over vehicle emissions, interested in establishing a single national standard, and — get this — would be happy to meet again.

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Fueling the Opposition: EPA Staff Had Serious Reservations About CAFE Rollback Proposal

Staff at the Environmental Protection Agency had major disagreements over the decision to rollback corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for the coming years, according to documents released last week. The matter echoes an event in May where science advisers for the EPA claimed the agency had ignored its own research in order to rationalize the push to relax fuel targets.

Both items have given ammunition to critics of the new proposal to claim the choice was politically motivated and based upon shoddy, biased research. Interesting, considering that’s exactly what the current administration said about the earlier decision to make them more stringent.

Led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and backed by EPA, the current proposal seeks to keep fuel economy standards at 2020 levels — rather than continuing to elevate them. The arguments made for the move revolved around existing consumer preferences and saving lives. However, some of the agency’s staff seemed to be concerned with the NHTSA’s data and claimed it had overstepped by including the EPA in documents it didn’t approve of.

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2019 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel Takes a Mysterious Fuel Economy Hit

Until an automaker comes along with something better, your cheapest bet for highway fuel economy in a pickup is the Duramax diesel-powered Chevrolet Colorado and its GMC Canyon twin. The full-size Ford F-150 with 3.0-liter diesel V6 matches it in economy, but not price.

Boasting a 30 mpg EPA rating for highway consumption, the oil-burning midsizers command a premium over their lesser siblings, but make up for it with thriftiness and heaps of torque. The 2.8-liter inline-four generates 369 lb-ft of twist — far more grunt than the 275 lb-ft on offer from GM’s 3.6-liter V6.

However, there’s a mystery afoot. The EPA ratings for the newest Colorado and Canyon diesels show a drop in city and combined efficiency for the 2019 model year, despite the powertrains being a carry-over.

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Will the Fuel Efficiency Rollback Help Employment?

President Donald Trump was obsessed with U.S. employment long before being sworn in as Commander-in-chief. In fact, the jobs rhetoric played a major role in swaying traditionally democratic voters in states like Michigan. The promise of manufacturing positions, the kind of work American used to be known for, was too tempting for some living in the Rust Belt to ignore.

“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” he told Detroit’s auto workers in March 2017, referencing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy. “We’re going to help the companies, and they’re going to help you.”

Those fuel economy rollbacks are now fast approaching, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency released their official proposal last week. But will it truly help bolster employment rates in the United States? The answer depends largely upon who you ask.

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  • Jwee I think it is short sighted and detrimental to the brand. The company should be generous to its locked-in user base, treating them as a resource, not a revenue stream.This is what builds any good relationship, generosity to the other partner. Apple does with their products. My iPhone is 5 years old, but I keep getting the latest and greatest updates for free, which makes me feel valued as a customer and adds actual value. When it is time for a new phone, Apple past treatment towards me certainly plays into my decisions (as did BMW's - so long subscription extracting pigs, its been a great 20 years). Imagine how much good will and love (and good press) Polestar would get from their user base if they gave them all a "68 fresh horses" update overnight, for free. Brand loyalty would soar (provided their car is capable).
  • ToolGuy If I had some space I would offer $800 and let the vehicle sit at my place as is. Then when anyone ever asked me, "Have you ever considered owning a VW?" I would say "Yes."
  • ToolGuy In the example in the linked article an automated parking spot costs roughly 3% of the purchase price of the property. If I were buying such a property, I would likely purchase two parking spots to go with it, and I'm being completely serious.(Speaking of ownership vs. subscription, the $150 monthly maintenance fee would torque me off a lot more than the initial acquisition cost.)
  • ToolGuy "which will be returned as refunds to citizens of the state" - kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund? Make the amount high enough and I will gladly move to California to take advantage (my family came close to moving there when I was a teen, and oodles of people have moved from CA to my state, so I'm happy to return the favor).Note to California: You probably do not want me as a citizen.
  • ToolGuy Nice torque figure.