TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — The director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality shot down the notion that the agency has already decided to implement a 54.5 mpg corporate fleet average for 2025.
The average is officially proposed, but the decision to raise, lower or leave alone the 54.5 corporate fleet fuel economy average for 2025 won't be made until after a review in 2017 and 2018. The decision is due in April 2018.
“There is a perception out here that the decision is already made,” Chris Grundler said at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars. “That is wrong. The EPA administrator makes the final decision, and he will work for the next president.”
He said that in the review EPA will examine everything from the price of fuel to consumer acceptance of new technologies.
The process of gathering the data for the mid-term evaluation is already underway. Grundler said EPA is studying consumer acceptance of new fuel-saving technologies, such as stop-start systems, direct fuel injection, downsized turbo engines and transmissions with more than six speeds.
Grundler said EPA will issue a report on these technologies in June 2016. Later that year EPA will seek public comment. And then in April 2018, EPA administrator will decide if the 2025 standards will stick.
The EPA administrator, Grundler said, will be faced with three choices: Determine the standards are appropriate and make no changes; make the standard more stringent; or relax them.
Pointing to several vehicles already on the road, Grundler said automakers are ahead of schedule in meeting the 2025 fuel economy standards. The aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150, he said, already complies with 2024 standards, while the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado comply with 2021 standards.
Grundler also busted some myths about the 2025 standards. He said:
• If consumers migrate to larger, less-efficient pickups and SUVs, automakers' individual fuel economy fleet standards will automatically adjust. “The standards adjust with sales mix. We are not forcing everyone into small cars. Americans can still chose vehicles that meet most of their needs.”
• Low fuel prices have not affected consumers' desire to buy fuel-efficient vehicles.
• Consumers have accepted and like new fuel economy technologies, with the exceptions of stop-start systems and continuously variable transmissions.
Despite the growing number of diesel and electrified vehicles, the EPA, Grundler said, believes it will be highly efficient gasoline engines that will remain dominant through the 2025 period.