Proposed Fuel Economy Target: Consumer Reports Unimpressed

July 1, 2011
2011 Toyota Prius with PLUS Performance Package

2011 Toyota Prius with PLUS Performance Package

The Obama Administration would like to see a Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of 56.2 miles per gallon, including both cars and light trucks, by 2025. Auto industry groups oppose this and dispute the government’s claim that such a quantum leap in fuel economy would only result in a price increase of $2,100 per vehicle. Consumers, caught directly in the crossfire, appear to be favoring smaller, more fuel-efficient cars over hybrids and currently available electric vehicles, at least for the time being.

Now Consumer Reports has entered the picture, saying that the proposed CAFE of 56.2 is good, but not quite good enough. In fact, Consumer Reports feels that the proposed 56.2 mpg standard should be a minimum acceptable average, with automakers striving for 62 mpg instead. David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto test division, summarized their view with, “A minimum standard of 56 miles per gallon is definitely good for consumers, but 62 is even better. Technologies to attain this level of improvement are currently on the market today.”

The technologies referenced by Champion include hybrid vehicles, clean-diesel, electric vehicles, direct-injection gasoline engines, advanced transmission designs, lightweight materials and more efficient accessories such as electric power steering. Consumer Reports also points out that several mainstream automobiles approach 56 mpg in highway fuel economy today, including the Toyota Prius (55 mpg), the diesel VW Golf TDI (49 mpg) and the Honda Civic LX sedan (47 mpg).

How the situation ultimately plays out will be determined soon enough, but American consumers have been slow to embrace hybrids, electric vehicles and even (according to manufacturers) clean diesel. Forcing change on the public has never worked well, especially when that change comes with a higher price tag. Not everyone shares the same vision as Consumer Reports, since many of us view cars as more than transportation appliances. What does the future hold for truck lovers or sports car enthusiasts? No one knows for sure, but this much is clear:  it will be filled with change.

[Consumer Reports, via Green Car Reports]

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