A week after the EPA was expected to formalize its proposed 54.5 mpg mileage rules for 2025 it appears the Obama Administration could be months away from locking things down.
Despite the reluctant buy-in of most manufacturers there appears to still be some heated opposition to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE update – which would require the industry to increase mileage by about 50% over the already strict guidelines now in place for 2016.
“We expect the process to be completed soon,” an administration official says, though exactly when is uncertain.
Few expect any major changes to the rules – which was hammered out after some bitter debate between the auto industry, auto unions, environmentalists and the Obama White House. Earlier proposals would have pushed the CAFE numbers well above 60 mpg. But with a few exceptions, everyone finally appeared to sign on once the compromise 54.5 mpg number was announced.
The apparent reason for the current delay is that the details of the new rules are being subjected to “interagency reviews.” But some industry insiders are speculating there may be other factors at work, especially during an election year when any environmentally based legislation has come under attack.
There is clearly a lot of uncertainty remaining when it comes to the process of meeting the new regulations. By some estimates it could cost as much as $10,000 a vehicle to achieve the 54.5 mpg target. That dire view pre-supposes that a significant share of the vehicles that will be sold by 2025 will require a switch to battery power, whether in advanced hybrid or pure battery-electric form.
Proponents of the tough new standards, however, insist the industry will get there without such a severe transformation. By their estimates, the increase in the price of the typical vehicle will be as little as $2,000 – a differential they insist will be readily made up through savings on fuel costs.