Fuel Efficiency Standards Bringing Drivers Relief at the Pump, Today

As gas prices are once again soaring, the oil industry and its allies are renewing their calls for more drilling, more pipelines and continued taxpayers subsidies. The reality is that greatly increased domestic drilling has failed to lower gasoline prices and has had no impact on stopping the latest spike in global oil prices.

But our new study, “Relieving Pain at the Pump”, shows what does work: higher fuel-efficiency standards. Thanks to the first phase of these stronger standards that started in model year 2012, a bumper crop of fuel efficient cars are in the showrooms, today.  In fact, since 2009 when President Obama announced the first set of fuel-efficiency standards, the number of popular, fuel-efficient models has more than doubled, from 27 models in 2009 to 57 today.

By trading in their current gas guzzlers for today’s gas sippers, drivers can substantially cut their fuel bills. For instance, driver that trades in a sport utility vehicle (SUV) that gets 15 mpg for one that gets 20 mpg can save $1000 each year at $4 per gallon of gasoline and 15,000 miles per year of travel.

2012 Fuel-Efficiency Models: Popular Gasoline Models Get Fuel Efficiency Makeover

Model year 2012 is the first year that automakers are required to begin phasing in new fuel saving technologies to meet the administration’s first round of standards that raises average fuel-efficiency to 35.5 mpg by 2016. The second set of standards that will be finalized this summer will continue to strengthen standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025, doubling the efficiency of today’s average vehicle.

The NRDC analysis also found there are 47 fuel-efficient models available in showrooms today, rising from 27 models in 2009.  Automakers have introduced a plethora of fuel-saving features in some of the more popular, conventional gas-powered cars as a result of the 35.5 mpg standard. This gives consumers fuel-saving vehicle options in addition to buying a hybrid or electric vehicle.

New Fuel Saving Technologies Installed on Many Popular Models

Since 2009, automakers substantially retooled some of their most popular models to boost mpg, demonstrating how quickly the industry can respond to meet new challenges. Key strategies have been: 1) switch from heavy body-on-frame SUVs to lighter, more efficient unibody crossover bodies; 2) using turbocharging, direct injection and variable valve timing to make engines more efficient; 3) replacing 4 speed transmissions with more efficient 5- or 6-speed transmissions; 4) better aerodynamics, more fuel efficient tires, and lighter weight materials.

2025 Standard of 54.5 MPG will Cut Drivers Fuel Bills in Half

The 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard, set to be finalized in August, will double today’s average level of fuel efficiency and cut fuel bills in half. Individual drivers will save $4400 over the life of the vehicle, after considering the cost of the fuel saving technologies.

Compared to the first round of efficiency improvements to 35.5 mpg, the proposed 54.5 mpg standards will result in billions of additional gallons saved annually across the states. Aggregate U.S. savings will be more than $68 billion when accounting for both the incremental cost of more fuel efficient vehicles and the savings from lower gasoline consumption. Consumer savings in each state will be at least millions of dollars and the top 24 states will each see annual savings in the billions of dollars each year by 2030.  

Drivers Need Real Solutions

The ‘drill, baby, drill’ approach to energy won’t ease the pain at the pump because we can’t control global oil prices. But relief is available in showrooms today with more fuel-efficient car and truck models that go farther on a gallon of gasoline. Proposed 54.5 mpg standards can help cut transportation bills in half. While the new standards have the broad support of automakers, workers, consumers and environmentalists, some are stuck in the past.

The National Automobile Dealers Association and their House Republican supporters are trying to stymie the standards. These opponents should step aside and let the 54.5 mpg standards be finalized this summer. Otherwise, they will be standing in the way of billions of dollars of savings for consumers, cleaner air and a more energy secure America.