The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on Friday morning that they were undoing the changes made by President Trump. As such new vehicles sold in the US must achieve 40 MPG. These requirements come in broken up steps, with 8% per year for model years 2024 and 2025 and 10% in 2026. Currently, we are still under President Trump’s deal, which has vehicles achieving 24 MPG in real-world driving.
Going on to claim the NHTSA decisions are the best the industry can hope to achieve in the time frame and should save 220 billion gallons during the life of the vehicles when compared to the standards President Trump established. Surprisingly enough, there haven’t been any President Biden standards set. He seems happy letting the NHTSA do things on their own, and how they want.
Under President Obama, standards were set through 2025, and while the new requirements won’t exactly match his time frame, they will exceed them by 2026. The standards during his era allowed for shifts based on the types of vehicles most Americans were buying. In 2012 for example, 49% of new vehicles purchased were SUVs and trucks. Now those vehicles make up 77% of sales. These vehicles traditionally use larger, more fuel-hungry engines.
Environmentalists are worried that this isn’t going far enough. Dan Becker is the director of the Safe Climate Transport Center at the Center for Biological Diversity. He wanted to see the NHTSA push the number up 2 MPG higher to the limit of their talks. “Climate change has gotten much worse, but these rules only require automakers to reduce gas-guzzling slightly more than they agreed to cut nine years ago.”
It’s simply amazing that he cannot accept things for the way they are here. This is a significant change and one that automakers will have a difficult time keeping up with. The changes by President Trump gave them some headway so they could properly develop these engines. In the last 50 years alone, the technology has become incredibly advanced, but the overwhelming need for more at a sooner rate is just too much.
Without time to properly design engines and source materials to make these high MPG vehicles, these kinds of expectations become nothing more than a cash grab in the form of gas-guzzler taxes attached to the sales of new vehicles. It also causes a massive surge in new-car costs, and Americans are already having trouble affording that new car. Perhaps the NHTSA needs to look at this in a new light.
Instead of forcing the automakers to come up with newer technology to inflate the costs of these vehicles, and making people pay more for lower MPG vehicles, just offer a discount or rebate for people to buy lower MPG vehicles. Maybe even a tax write-off could work. However, passing along a bigger cost to buy a higher MPG vehicle or a fine for a lower MPG vehicle isn’t the way to get Americans to make the change.
The interesting part about all this is how the NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work together. With NHTSA setting the MPG averages, the EPA tackles greenhouse gas emissions. With this new ruling, the NHTSA is setting the bar about even with the levels issued by the EPA back in December. This prevents automakers from having to find solutions that satisfy both organizations, instead, they get one solid line to toe. No matter who is setting the bar for the standard, this is far too much, and far too soon.
The American people need an opportunity to recover from COVID, and for inflation to come down. For those who need a new car, the MPG is often not as concerning as the sticker price. By expecting insane levels of MPGs, people should expect to pay a lot more to buy the vehicle, so unless they plan on fixing gas prices too, driving just got a lot more expensive.