Flemming: New fuel efficiency standards will save lives and money

By David Flemming

The Trump administration is rolling back motor vehicle regulations in a way that will likely save lives and money. What they have proposed to do is set new SAFE fuel efficiency standards, freezing the Obama administration’s CAFE standards in 2019, abandoning the requirement that manufacturers attain an astounding 54 miles per gallon by 2025.

Car manufacturers are currently obligated to meet miles-per-gallon fleet minimums that increase with each passing year. SAFE would not remove this obligation, but it would make the requirements less burdensome. This is good news for consumers as well as the automakers.

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With SAFE efficiency standards, automakers can refocus their designs to prioritize human safety.

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), believes that the SAFE rule will “reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 lives (by 2029).” That’s over 1000 lives saved each year, some of which would likely be in Vermont.

How are those lives saved? CAFE standards were designed with the intent of reducing carbon emissions, without regard to driver and passenger safety. Therefore, in order to meet the extreme efficiency standards, vehicle manufacturers were forced to lighten the makeup of their vehicles, making them more vulnerable in collisions with heavier vehicles. As anyone who has taken a physics class knows, whenever a heavier object strikes a lighter object, the lighter object will suffer the most damage. With SAFE efficiency standards, automakers can refocus their designs to prioritize human safety.

In addition, the adoption of the new standards is estimated to save Americans $2,700 per new vehicle purchased. This may very well be the difference between a family purchasing a used vehicle that pollutes and a new clean and efficient vehicle that is better for the family and the environment. Talk about a win-win.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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One thought on “Flemming: New fuel efficiency standards will save lives and money

  1. David Flemming,

    The CAFE standard was reduced because EVs did not sell in the millions as rosy scenarios had dreamt up.

    The EPA has a unique method of calculating MPGeq. The method is used nowhere else in the world.

    The EPA arbitrarily sets the lower heating value, LHV, of gasoline at 115,000 Btu/gal.
    Then EPA states 115000 Btu/(3412 Btu/kWh) = 33.7 kWh.
    BTW, the LHV of E10 (a blend of 90% gasoline/10% ethanol) is 112114 Btu/gal.

    When testing an EV, the EPA measures the kWh (AC) from a wall meter.
    The vehicle state-of-charge meter measures the kWh (DC) in the battery.
    The loss due to AC to DC conversion, battery resistance and at-rest time is least 15%, from the wall meter to the vehicle meter.

    If the vehicle meter indicates a fuel consumption of 0.300 kWh (DC)/mile, then the wall meter would indicate 0.300 x 1.15 = 0.3450 kWh (AC)/mile.
    Energy per mile would be 3412 x 0.3450 = 1177 Btu.

    EPA would claim the mileage of the EV as 33.7/0.3450 (wall meter) = 97.7 MPGeq.
    EPA would claim the mileage of a 2017 Prius plug-in at 33.7/0.2533 (wall meter) = 133 MPGeq

    If an owner starts with a full battery, and drives 25 miles, that portion of the trip is at 133 MPGeq, per EPA
    If an owner drives another 75 miles in hybrid mode, that portion of the trip is at 54 MPG, per EPA
    The owner reads on his dashboard his average mileage was (25 x 133 + 75 x 54)/100 = 73.8 MPGEQ, per EPA.
    Non-technical owners often brag about such numbers, even though they often are unaware they are bogus. See Note.

    NOTE: The Btus in gasoline are thermal Btus, whereas the Btus in a kWh are electrical Btus. If an engineering student were to equate them, he/she would be awarded a D. Mixing thermal and electrical Btus is OK in politics, but a basic no-no in engineering.

    NOTE: In Europe and elsewhere, EV consumption has been stated as liters/100 km, and CO2 emission as g/km well before the EPA came up with its MPGeq “method”. Foreign manufacturers just smile, while complying with the EPA, to profitably sell cars in the US.

    NOTE: Initially, auto manufacturers did not object because they were allowed to use the inflated EPA MPGeq values to boost their fleet averages. However, when rosy EV sales projections did not happen, the “54.5 mpg fleet average by 2025” proved to be an off-the-charts fantasy, and auto manufacturers began to object. After Trump became president, a more realistic mpg target of about “37 mpg fleet average by 2021” became necessary, because of much fever EVs averaged into the new car sales mix.

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