Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Car efficiency US vs Europe

A US senator, Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has suggested measures calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve its fuel-efficiency standards testing procedures. Critics of the current testing system accuse the EPA of accepting auto manufacturers' idealized claims about their own vehicles' fuel efficiency, and of deceiving consumers. The last time the system was revised was in 1985. More here

But the testing issue is only one aspect of the lack of ambitious fuel economy standards for US cars, which worries environmentalists as well as analysts around the world concerned about oil price effect on the global economy and about the competitiveness of the US car industry. The US consumes a large chunk of the world's oil, with two thirds of consumption caused by transport. Fuel economy standards at least in line with the European ones (which most analysts argue have plenty of scope for improvement) could potentially reduce demand and therefore contribute to a reduction of oil prices.

For example, US car manufacturers are required to achieve average car efficiency levels in 2011 that are already commonplace in Europe. The requirement imposed on US car manufacturers is to achieve 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2011. This is the equivalent of setting a standard of 224.7 grams of CO2 per kilometer (gCO2/km). The average car entering the European Union market today is already reaching 160 gCO2/km, which is the equivalent of 38.6 mpg! And the EU target for 2008 is to reach 140 gCO2/km, which is the equivalent of 44.1 mpg for petrol and 51.9 mpg for diesel cars.

In addition, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are practically exempt from regulation, as they are not considered as passenger cars - despite the fact that now millions of Americans regularly drive them on city roads. The US Senate Energy Committee rejected in May the proposal to bring the efficiency of these vehicles in line with the (very modest, as shown above) standards of passenger cars. Regulating the efficiency of these vehicles is proving to be very difficult in Europe as well.

For more on the European car efficiency debate (things are not perfect there either!) see my earlier post

- Our calculations are based on conversion factors provided by the World Resources Institute