Cars with 54.5 mpg: A triumph for cleaner air

Cars with 54.5 mpg: A triumph for cleaner air

By 2025, new cars and light-duty trucks will get 54.5 mpg – nearly doubling the fuel economy of today's fleet.

This is a major improvement that not only saves consumers money but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

These new fuel performance and greenhouse gas standards, finalized by the Obama Administration in August 2012, follow a first round of standards for cars finalized in 2010 for model years 2012 to 2016. Those car rules represented the first major tightening of fuel economy performance standards since 1975.

Under clean air and fuel efficiency standards adopted a year ago, large trucks and buses also will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 270 million tons and reduce oil consumption by more than 530 million barrels.

Designing the new cars

Much of the needed technology to cut carbon emissions will come off the shelf. Let’s take a look at just a few of the ways cars will run better:

  • Aerodynamic design reduces wind resistance on roofs, grilles, and hoods.
  • Hybrid technology reduces need for gasoline.
  • Direct fuel injection and turbocharging help the engine run more efficiently and powerfully.
  • Dual-clutch manual transmissions weigh less and eliminate engine drag when the car is idling.
  • 6-speed automatic transmissions mean the crankshaft doesn't have to spin as fast, saving energy.
  • Power steering pumps, now driven off the engine in most cars, will be replaced with electric motors.
  • Tires with lower rolling resistance, and more efficient gearing, add mileage improvements.

Fewer air pollutants

The new clean car standards are vitally important for clean air and the climate: Carbon pollution from vehicles will be reduced by 6 billion tons over the life of the 2012-2025 vehicles. 

The the daily oil savings of the combined standards for new cars and large diesel trucks will be substantially more than the amount of oil imported each day in 2011 from Iraq, Kuwait and Saudia Arabia. What's more, the standards for new cars (spanning model years 2012 to 2025) are projected to save American families more than $8,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a new vehicle. 

Many Americans, working together, helped pave the way for cleaner cars

For years, leading states and environmental organizations have worked to limit climate pollution from new cars.

In 2002, working with allies, EDF helped pass the 2002 California law that made cars cleaner, and provided the foundation for strong new federal action. In 2009, EPA gave the green light to California's landmark standards. In several major cases, from the Supreme Court of the United States to the federal court of appeals, we defended California's groundbreaking clean car standards and EPA's efforts in recent years to adopt rigorous national standards. 

We’ve been waiting for this for decades: Cleaner, less polluting cars also mean cars that are less expensive to drive and that reduce dependence on oil.

Mandy Warner EDF climate and air policy specialist