President Obama raised the hopes of American drivers when he unveiled fuel economy standards for motor vehicles in 2011.
“We’ve set an aggressive target, and the companies are stepping up to the plate,” he said. “By 2025, the average fuel economy of their vehicles will nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon.”
But that’s not accurate.
By 2025, the average fuel economy of passenger vehicles will be closer to 44 mpg.
Why that 10 mpg gap? Blame goes to how the government measures automakers’ compliance with corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. The test relies on obsolete assumptions and produces inflated fuel economy values.
U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledge the methodology is outdated and even created an updated version in 2006 that is now used for EPA labels that tell car buyers what fuel efficiency they can expect.
But the test for ensuring CAFE compliance remains unchanged thanks to the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The law, which created CAFE, requires the government to stick with methodology devised more than 40 years ago.
With two procedures to measure fuel economy, the confusing result is a 20 percent gap between what consumers are told and what the government says it requires of automakers.
As cars become more advanced, that gap is likely to grow, giving advantages to automakers in regulations that are rarely noticed by car buyers.