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Environmentalists lobby Obama administration to adopt 60 mpg fuel standard

September 17, 2010 |  2:10 pm

Edison2

Thursday's Automotive X Prize winners showed it was possible for cars to achieve 100-plus miles per gallon. Now a coalition of 19 environmental groups has launched a campaign urging the Obama administration to adopt a 60 mpg fuel standard that would apply to cars and light trucks by 2025.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and other groups aim to influence the Notice of Intent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation will issue later this month, proposing fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles for the 2017 model year and beyond. 

"Our analysis shows that technologies can achieve the 60 mpg level with a mix of 55% hybrid vehicles, 10% plug-in electric hybrids, 5% pure electric plug-ins and improvements to conventional gasoline vehicle engines," said Roland Hwang, transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's all known technology. We're talking about accelerating the introduction of these types of technologies and pushing the automakers to start innovating."

The 60 mpg standard by 2025 presumes a 6% annual improvement in fuel economy over the 2016 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of 34.1 mpg established in April, Hwang said.

"We were very surprised when environmental groups called for 60 mpg because just last year we worked with the Obama administration and the State of California and environmental groups to agree on a new national standard that would reach over 35 mpg by 2016, and before we've even achieved those new heights, in fact, before the program has even taken effect, there are already calls for almost double the mileage," said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group that represents General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and 10 additional auto manufacturers.

Bergquist said it's a challenge to predict what will happen by 2025.

"One of the factors that should be assessed is affordability of technology because if consumers don't buy that technology, we're not going to achieve those results. We also don't know the future state of the electric infrastructure or consumers' ability to find clean diesel. It's hard to say what technology will be on the road," Bergquist said, adding that technology breakthroughs will be needed to achieve fuel economy gains exceeding the 2016 standard.

According to a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, the joint notice of intent to be issued later this month by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will describe the key elements of the post-2016 fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards, as well as a schedule for setting those standards that would provide sufficient lead time to vehicle manufacturers.

-- Susan Carpenter 

Photo: The aerodynamic, four-wheeled Very Light Car No. 98 by Edison2 demonstrated the equivalent of 102.5 miles per gallon on the test track. Credit: Edison2

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