Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Techy Tuesday - About That 54.5 MPG CAFE Standard...

Yeah, the one mandated to be met by 2025 when it was put in place in 2012.  That one.  Yeah... it seems it was based on some assumptions that the world refused to go along with, and now the automakers are grumbling about not being able to meet it, and talking about trying to get the mandate knocked back a bit.

The EPA is having no part of any talk about lowering the mandated CAFE mileage.
During a speech Tuesday at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars, Chris Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, made it clear the agency is in no mood to move backwards.

The EPA is already looking beyond 2025 and believes dangerous climate changes will occur if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced 80 percent by 2050 from today’s levels.
Which, according to everything I've been able to determine, would mean exactly nothing to global temperature - any change would be within the massive experimental errors in the system.  Which agrees with what at least one prominent "climate crusader" accidentally said on record once (about 35 seconds to 1 minute).  But let me ignore that for now. 

The problem the auto makers is facing comes from precisely defining the Corporate Average Fleet Economy (the CAFE).  Cars are treated differently than trucks, and one of the reasons for the explosion of SUVs is that they are counted as trucks, while station wagons were counted as cars.  Not many station wagons are being made these days.  There is great legal wrangling and fighting over how to classify any given vehicle because not every vehicle has a prayer of hitting that kind of mileage.  The problem is that the projected fleet makeup for 2025 was based on the oil prices in 2010 to 2012, which were before fracking revolutionized US energy production and drove oil prices down.  Low gas prices have precipitated a strong consumer shift from cars to light-duty trucks and SUVs; American consumers love their larger, more capable vehicles. The shift to more trucks makes it more difficult for the industry to meet the government’s 2025 gas mileage target.
"They didn’t accurately judge the mix of vehicles,” noted Chris Robinson, research associate for Lux Research. “The government was thinking it would be 65% cars and 35% pick-ups and SUVs. They basically had it backwards.”
In this case, the brutality of CAFE is that the average has to be >54.5.  If you're selling 65% trucks to 35% cars, the cars have to be far above 54.5 MPG to bring the average of the trucks up that.  The trucks need to be pretty darned good, too. 

It's a game of Chicken!  Who backs down first?  The EPA has the infinite checkbook of the Fed.Gov and no apparent sense of cost/benefit ratios; they see a target and they seem to have no sense of the costs involved.  Sort of saying, "whatever it costs to raise the fleet average to 54.5 MPG is worth it".  Bailouts aside, the auto makers don't have that infinite checkbook and are more bounded by reality.  How much will someone pay for increased mileage in their car or truck, especially since we're well on the curve of diminishing returns.  “If you have a truck that gets 10 mpg and you take it to 20, then the customer gets a big fuel-cost benefit,” Cole said. “But if you take it from 35 to 40 mpg, then the customer’s fuel savings grow smaller and smaller. And it may not be enough to offset the cost of the new fuel-saving technology.”  While the EPA estimates it will cost $1000 on average to get to the higher mileage, the industry is saying closer to $5000.  While both sides have an incentive to stretch those numbers a bit, I trust industry over the EPA any day.  They have to work with those costs, and ought to be more accurate than EPA spreadsheet jockeys. 

So why talk about this now?  This is preliminary wrangling going on for an interim ruling the EPA has to make by April 1, 2018.  Analysts say fuel prices will probably be the key to the EPA’s conclusion.  As fuel prices go, they say, so go the buying decisions of the American consumer.  Whether or not that means anything to the tyrants in the EPA is really what remains to be seen. 
“Ultimately, no one can control the type of vehicles that consumers choose,” Robinson told us. “The government can’t do it, and neither can the automakers.”
GM is counting on electric vehicles like its Chevy Bolt to push its CAFE numbers high enough.  They need to sell a butt load of these.  (Source)


  1. The EPA doesn't give a red rats ass about physics, chemistry or reality.
    They pull a number out of their ass and decree that will be the mandated CAFE. The number could be blatantly impossible to achieve but the nimrods at the EPA could not care less. They have spoken and the peons MUST comply.

    1. I think you're exactly right.

      To deliver the power it takes to move big things requires power out of the engine: long piston strokes and large pistons, which means large engines. The internal combustion engine has been optimized as a system for a hundred years, and they're not going to suddenly make it 70% more efficient (the difference in CAFE standards from now to 2025). Instead, to reach the new standard the cars will get lighter, with more plastics and thinner metal structures. The shorter way to say that is they'll be less safe. The new standard will cost more lives.

    2. And just "who" says the measure has to be a "Fleet Average?" Fuel prices are always going to fluctuate so why not just aim to make targets for classes of vehicles? Am I dense or is it really so difficult? I know, I know, we are talking about bureaucrats!

  2. Actually,, the government can control the type of vehicle we purchase. They just haven't issued that mandate ,, yet.

  3. This could be an excellent "come to Jesus" moment if the auto mfgs have the brains and balls to manage it properly. Lay out why what the fed dot gov wants is not possible, announce that the mfgs will continue to produce vehicles as efficient and safe as technology and practicality allow, the alternative being no cars produced at all. If you want to live in "Cuba North" where all cars are 40+ years old then support the EPA and the government, if you want choice then reign in the EPA, and by extension, the rest of the excessively intrusive and expensive federal government.

    1. He he, I just commented on another site about the image coming to mind about streets in third world countries filled with motor bikes and tuk tuks hauling families and loaded down with "commerce". Yes, the Green weenies would like to send us back to that type of economy but then the law of unintended consequences (to them of course, not you and me!) of all those little motors with no smog controls and all that noise!! That would be paradise to them.

  4. You cannot under estimate the power of stupidity. If you don't know an anarchist greeny than you haven't seen real stupidity yet. Their goal is not to save the world, that is what they say because it sounds so much better than what they really want. They don't give a damn about global warming, they know it is and always was a scam to gain power and fund the green machine. Their goal is not some kind of efficiency or improving life. Their goal is to make the rest of us suffer, they are unhappy self-centered crazy people who believe some of what they spout but know most of it is simply intended to make the rest of us give up the good life because they are so unhappy with their life. If you argue with one of these nuts sooner or later you will get them to admit that none of their fine ideas will work but it is only fair that we all go down the toilet together. They don't like you, they don't like it that you have nice things and live a good life and they want to "get even" whatever that takes.

  5. The EPA falls under the Senior Executive Service (SES). That management can turn a bureaucracy on a dime, if they are told to do so. If Cankles wins the election, they surely would not. On the other hand, Trump...

    Here's a subtle hint: Anyone who nominates Christine Whitman to head the EPA has no intention of changing the path of that agency.

    You doubt that the bureaucracy can be turned as quickly as I claim? Well, surely you are correct. After all, we're 7 1/2 years into Obama's presidency, and he hasn't been able to turn even one agency from its prior path. You do get that as sarcasm, do you not? In about 4 months after his inauguration, he turned the DoJ almost 180 degrees, to where they did not even choose to charge those Black armed terrorists at the Philadelphia polling places. But then again, DoJ is largely lawyers, so one would not expect them to know their rights under the civil service system. By the way, that is also sarcasm.