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Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Final Rule - CAFE (Fuel Economy Standards)- Plus Our Journalists Comment


Trading MPG For Lives: Under the new SAFE Rule, projected overall industry average required fuel economy in MYs 2021-2026 is 40.4 miles per gallon, compared to the 46.7 mpg projected requirement in MY 2025 under Obama's 2012 CAFE requirements

Washington DC March 31, 2020; NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule on March 31, which will affect model years 2021-2026 passenger cars and light trucks that automakers manufacture — and that American families need for transportation to work, school, and leisure activities.

Under the rule, corporate average fuel economy — which regulates how far vehicles must travel on a gallon of fuel — and carbon dioxide emissions standards increase at an annual rate of 1.5% through model year 2026, down from about 5% under previous standards. All new vehicles will continue to be subject to the strict pollution standards of the Clean Air Act and will be subject to higher pollution standards than the older vehicles that will be retired because of this rule.

More than just fuel economy, which is projected to be 40.4 miles per gallon in MY 2026, and carbon dioxide are impacted by the SAFE Vehicles Rule. Required technology costs for new cars will be cut by $100 billion through model year 2029. For American families, this means about $1,400 less per new vehicle. By reducing costs, up to 2.7 million more new vehicles will be sold through model year 2029, which will support jobs for Americans with automakers, suppliers, and related businesses.  

NHTSA research shows that newer vehicles are safer vehicles, and this rule will help American families afford newer vehicles with the latest safety technologies. There will be about 3,300 fewer crash fatalities and 397,000 fewer injuries in crashes over the lifetimes of vehicles built through model year 2029. 

Thanks to the SAFE Vehicles Rule, more American families will be able to afford newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles.

Technology Makes Safer Cars
New Car Safety Technology
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with Pedestrian Detection uses the car’s front-facing camera to help detect an imminent collision with a vehicle or pedestrian and avoid impact or minimize damage by braking automatically
  • Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) helps prevent accidental lane departure by sensing road markings, automatically steering the car if necessary
  • Lane Following Assist (LFA) may automatically adjust steering to help keep the vehicle centered in its lane of travel. LFA can help keep the vehicle centered on both highways and city streets.
  • High Beam Assist (HBA) eliminates the need for drivers to manually switch high beamson and off at night
  • Driver Attention Warning (DAW) system that monitors a spectrum of driver-related characteristics to help detect driver fatigue
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA) with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA) helps detect a vehicle in the drivers’ blind spot while the turn signal is on.
  • Smart Cruise Control (SCC) makes highway and long-distance driving more comfortable. Using a radar sensor mounted on the lower front grille, the SCC system maintains a set distance from the vehicle ahead in varied traffic conditions by automatically adjusting vehicle speed as needed.
  • Highway Driving Assist (HDA) is a driving convenience system that assists drivers in maintaining the center of the lane and at an appropriate speed while keeping a safe distance from the car in front.
  • Safe Exit Warning (SEW) may sound an alert when a vehicle approaches from behind, letting passengers know it may not be safe to open the door to exit the vehicle.
  • Reverse Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA) helps detect pedestrians and obstacles with a rearview camera and ultrasonic sensors.
  • The system can provide warnings and apply emergency braking to assist in the avoidance of a collision.
  • Official NHTSA SAFE Announcement

    March 31, 2020 | Washington, DC; The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule setting corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and CO2 emissions standards for model years 2021-2026 passenger cars and light trucks.

    “This rule reflects the Department’s #1 priority—safety—by making newer, safer, cleaner vehicles more accessible for Americans who are, on average, driving 12-year-old cars. By making newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles more accessible for American families, more lives will be saved and more jobs will be created,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. “Today, President Trump is keeping his promise to autoworkers made three years ago that he would reinvigorate American auto manufacturing by updating costly, increasingly unachievable fuel economy and vehicle CO2 emissions standards, and that is what the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule accomplishes.”

    “We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to correct the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our final rule puts in place a sensible one national program that strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry. This rule supports our economy, and the safety of American families.”

    The final rule will increase stringency of CAFE and CO2 emissions standards by 1.5% each year through model year 2026, as compared with the standards issued in 2012, which would have required about 5% annual increases. This is a change from the proposal issued in 2018. The majority of automakers are not meeting the 2012 standard without resorting to the use of credits. The final rule can be found at:

    NHTSA is required by Federal law to set fuel economy standards at the maximum feasible level for both passenger cars and light trucks, for every model year. If NHTSA determines that standards previously set are no longer maximum feasible, NHTSA can amend them. In determining what levels of CAFE standards would be maximum feasible, the law directs NHTSA to consider four specific factors: technological feasibility; economic practicability; the effect of other motor vehicle standards of the Government on fuel economy; and the Nation’s need to conserve energy.

    On April 2, 2018, the EPA issued the Mid-Term Evaluation Final Determination that found that the MY 2022-2025 CO2 emissions standards are not appropriate and should be revised. For nearly two years, the agencies worked together to extensively analyze current automotive and fuel technologies, reviewed economic conditions and projections, and consulted with other Federal agency partners to ensure the most reliable and accurate analysis possible. The agencies also evaluated more than 750,000 public comments and held three public meetings.

    The SAFE Vehicles Rule reflects the realities of today’s markets, including substantially lower oil prices than in the original 2012 projection, significant increases in U.S. oil production, and growing consumer demand for larger vehicles.

    The SAFE Vehicles Rule increases U.S. competitiveness by reducing regulatory costs by as much as $100 billion through model year 2029. According to NHTSA/EPA projections, it will also boost new vehicle sales through model year 2029 by up to 2.7 million vehicles. At a time of sudden economic uncertainty, the SAFE Vehicles Rule provides help for millions of American workers and thousands of businesses in the auto sector and related industries by cutting costs and increasing sales of safe new vehicles.

    By reducing the average price of a new vehicle by about $1,000, this right-sized rule will make it easier for Americans to afford to buy newer, cleaner, and safer vehicles.

    The SAFE Vehicles Rule will also help more Americans afford newer vehicles, which NHTSA’s research shows are safer than ever. About 3,300 fewer crash fatalities, 397,000 fewer injuries, and more than 1.8 million fewer vehicles damaged in crashes are projected over the lifetimes of vehicles built according to these new standards.

    At the same time, the SAFE Vehicles Rule continues to protect the environment by increasing stringency of CAFE and CO2 emissions standards over the next five years, ensuring that Americans will have a wide range of affordable, safe, and fuel-efficient vehicles to choose from. Under the SAFE Rule, the projected overall industry average required fuel economy in MYs 2021-2026 is 40.4 miles per gallon, compared to the 46.7 mpg projected requirement in MY 2025 under the 2012 standards, and the new rule reduces the number of credits that are not associated with improved fuel economy. This rule is the largest deregulatory initiative of this administration. The agencies project that under these final standards, required technology costs would be reduced by $86 to $126 billion over the lifetimes of vehicles through MY 2029. At the same time, the SAFE Vehicles Rule provides regulatory certainty by establishing one set of national fuel economy and CO2 emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks.

    Under the rule, new vehicles will continue to be required to meet the Clean Air Act’s strict pollution standards, ensuring that air quality will be protected from smog-forming emissions. The rule will also see CO2 reductions year over year.

    Journalist Comments and Reflections - SAFE

    From Larry Nutson, The Auto Channel

    First off, California will sue. Fourteen states and DC have adopted California requirements. We'll see who wins.

    No matter this, what will a future President do?

    Vehicles that automakers will sell in 2026 have already been planned and are under development, based on the old rules. What will be the impact? Will the California law suit result in a long battle that delays product development?

    GM is going very heavy into electric vehicles. Now what?

    The devil is in the details. How does the new rule allow for credits that the car companies earn for adopting specific technology (hybrids, stop/start systems, high efficiency air conditioner/EVs)? Is the definition of light truck the same or changed?

    Lastly, what will be the longer term impact of Covid-19?

    From Steve Purdy, The Auto Channel, Shunpiker Productions

    Automakers seemed to be mostly in agreement on the existing standards and have invested a great deal in the R&D required to meet them. The science of it all, in my understanding, favors doing the maximum to mitigate impending climate impacts.

    I’d like to see some independent scientific analysis of the effects of this move. I’d also like to know how the numbers in the press release were arrived at. We know that in this kind of policy declaration the numbers are sometimes pulled out of thin air.

    This is a political document that needs close scrutiny.

    The references in the release to the president keeping promises moves this into that partisan space where such references tend to reduce credibility, much like the daily virus briefings from the White House where the experts gratuitously credit the president.

    Here are the arguments by partisans on the other side: HERE

    Doncha wish we had more independent sources of information?

    From Marty Bernstein, The Auto Channel

    The daily bull shit conferences of Trump's sycophants are useless. Regarding climate impacts most have already endorsed 45's perspective. We're not doomed yet, just getting closer.

    From Thom Cannell, The Auto Channel

    If I read this correctly, and I did not read the voluminous full report, nothing prevents automakers from adopting more stringent mpg/CO2 targets.

    With all automakers existing in a global economy, with insanely complex local regulations, it might make sense for most powertrains to hew closer to the most stringent requirements.

    EVs, (BEV, HEV, PHEV) seem to sidestep much of the fuel economy regs, while still contributing to CO2 production at the power distribution level; There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. The EV families also contribute vastly to production of rare earths from cobalt to neodymium to ytterbium, which just ain’t pretty, nor in any way environmentally friendly. Oh, and one country controls their output.

    What I find confounding is that one administration may produce a rule, the next change it, and the change is deemed, well, let’s not jump into that corrosive puddle.

    Maureen McDonald, The Auto Channel

    In 1980, when a took a job as managing editor of Ward's Automotive Yearbook, I found a headline on a squib of copy that I took into editor Harry Stark's office and said this must change. "Regs costly BLS finds." I hoped the book could become a reference in public and academic libraries but who would understand "regulations" and "bureau of labor statistics?"

    The average price of a car was $7,000 compared with $40,000 today and the average gas price was 90 cents, still lower than today. The CAFE standards now renamed under Trump as SAFE , could be a reason to lower car prices and make them a lot less confounding with all the bells and whistles.

    But we have to hold forth with environmental impact. REGS might be costly to BLS and customers, but they keep some handle on auto emissions, a mighty source of air pollution.

    If we've learned anything from just three weeks of sheltering in place, it is that the air feels cleaner with fewer cars on the road. There are more birds chirping in the yard and the volume of noise from incessant traffic has softened. I can walk my dog on the street with little fear of being mowed down.

    I don't know what could reduce the price of automobiles while engaging our love of driving everywhere. Let's hope the state's suits carry weight and the regulations stay in force. Meanwhile stay home and save gas. Go bird watching, it is spectacular this spring.

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