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New rule: Average gas mileage of 38 mpg by 2031

Standard will cut emissions, save money, officials say

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press
Published: June 8, 2024, 6:03am

WASHINGTON — New vehicles sold in the U.S. will have to average about 38 miles per gallon of gasoline in 2031 in real-world driving, up from about 29 mpg this year, under new federal rules unveiled Friday by the Biden administration.

The final rule will increase fuel economy by 2 percent per year for model years 2027 to 2031 for passenger cars, while SUVs and other light trucks will increase by 2 percent per year for model years 2029 to 2031, according to requirements released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The final figures are below a proposal released last year. Administration officials said the less stringent requirements will allow the auto industry flexibility to focus on electric vehicles, adding that higher gas-mileage requirements would have imposed significant costs on consumers without sufficient fuel savings to offset them.

President Joe Biden has set a goal that half all of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2030 are electric, part of his push to fight climate change. Gasoline-powered vehicles make up the largest single source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The 50 percent sales figure would be a huge increase over current EV sales, which accounted for 7.6 percent of new vehicle sales last year.

Even as he promotes EVs, Biden needs cooperation from the auto industry and political support from auto workers, a key political voting bloc, as the Democratic president seeks reelection. The United Auto Workers union has endorsed Biden but has said it wants to make sure the transition to electric vehicles does not cause job losses and that the industry pays top wages to workers who build EVs and batteries.

Biden’s likely opponent, former President Donald Trump, and other Republicans have denounced Biden’s push for EVs as unfair for consumers and an example of government overreach.

The new standards will save almost 70 billion gallons of gasoline through 2050, preventing more than 710 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by midcentury, the Biden administration said.

“Not only will these new standards save Americans money at the pump every time they fill up, they will also decrease harmful pollution and make America less reliant on foreign oil,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “These standards will save car owners more than $600 in gasoline costs over the lifetime of their vehicle.”

The highway safety agency said it has sought to line up its regulations so they match new Environmental Protection Agency rules that tighten standards for tailpipe emissions. But if there are discrepancies, automakers likely will have to follow the most stringent regulation.

In the byzantine world of government regulation, both agencies essentially are responsible for setting fuel economy requirements since the fastest way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to burn less gasoline.

Fuel economy figures used by The Associated Press reflect real-world driving conditions that include factors such as wind resistance, hills and use of air-conditioning. The real-world numbers are lower than mileage figures put forward by NHTSA.