US EIA projects fuel economy to improve

Departments - Regulations

July 13, 2017

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 (AEO2017) projects a decline in light-duty vehicle energy use between 2018 and 2040 as higher fuel economy offsets increases in light-duty vehicle miles.

An increase of vehicles in use in 2016 led to a record 2.84 trillion vehicle miles in the U.S.That figure is expected to continually increase, reaching 3.33 trillion miles traveled in 2040.

Fuel economy is expected to increase as well due to market developments and a rise in fuel economy standards. For model year 2015, fuel economy standards averaged about 35 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and about 27mpg for light trucks. Standards are set to rise to 53mpg and 38mpg for model year 2025.

AEO2017 projects new on-road vehicle fuel economy for passenger cars will increase 43% between 2015 and 2025, from 31mpg in 2015 to 45mpg. New light truck fuel economy is projected to increase 46%, from 21mpg to 31mpg.

The net effect of these fuel economy trends is that light-duty vehicle energy consumption is projected to decrease 12%, from 16.1 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) in 2017 to 14.2 quadrillion BTUs in 2025, despite a 5% growth in miles traveled.

Nearly all vehicle energy consumption is gasoline, with gasoline consumption by light-duty vehicles projected to fall from 8.7 million barrels per day in 2017 to 7.5 million barrels per day in 2025.

DOJ accuses FCA of diesel emissions cheating

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US LLC) of cheating on emissions tests for 104,000 vehicles equipped with 3L diesel engines.

Though not as large as the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal discovered in 2015 (more than 500,000 vehicles), regulators in both cases accuse automakers of using software code to cheat tests. Officials say Jeep and Ram vehicles would operate in a low-emissions mode during testing and pollute far more during real-world driving.

FCA officials denied the charges.

“The company intends to defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat-devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests,” officials said.

A week before the DOJ filed suit, FCA announced updated emissions software calibrations to address regulators’ concerns for Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and Ram 1500 pickup models equipped with the 3L diesel. If federal and California regulators approve the 2017 model year emissions controls, FCA officials say they can apply the software fix to 2014 through 2016 models.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) mandates that automakers disclose all controls, including software, that could impact emissions. DOJ officials said the Ram and Jeep models had eight software-based features not disclosed on emissions applications that lessen the effectiveness of emissions control systems.

Regulators said in January that FCA US was being investigated for diesel cheating. FCA officials said they have been working to explain software tools, but their answers did not satisfy the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“One or more of these undisclosed software features, alone or in combination with the others, renders inoperative, bypasses, and/or defeats the vehicles’ emission control systems,” DOJ officials said.

Each CAA violation can carry penalties ranging from $37,500 to $45,268 (fines increased following the discovery of Volkswagen’s cheating), putting FCA US’ potential fines at $3.9 billion to $4.7 billion. Volkswagen faced more than $18 billion in fines but settled with regulators for $15 billion – $10 billion to buy back tainted cars and $5 billion in fines.;;