New vehicles must average 40 mpg by 2026 under US standards
DETROIT — New vehicles sold in the United States will have to travel an average of at least 40 miles per gallon of gasoline in 2026, up from about 24 mpg, under new federal rules unveiled Friday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that its fuel economy requirements will override a Trump-era rollback of standards. For the current model year, standards enacted under Trump require the fleet of new vehicles to get just over 24 miles per gallon in real-world driving. The new requirements increase gas mileage by 8% per year for model years 2024 and 2025 and 10% in the 2026 model year.
Agency officials say the requirements are the maximum that the industry can achieve over the time period and will reduce gasoline consumption by more than 220 billion gallons over the life of vehicles, compared with the Trump standards.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes the NHTSA, said the rules also will help strengthen national security by making the country less dependent on foreign oil and less vulnerable to volatile gasoline prices. The national average price of gasoline has risen to more than $4. 22 per gallon, with much of the increase coming since Russia, a major oil producer, invaded Ukraine in late February. It cost $2. 88 per gallon just a year ago, according to AAA.
Gas prices also have helped to fuel inflation to a 40-year high, eating up household budgets and hitting President Joe Biden’s approval ratings.
“Transportation is the second-largest cost for American families, only behind housing,” Buttigieg said. The new standards, he said, will help keep the U.S. more secure and preserve “the freedom of our country to chart its future without being subject to other countries and to the decisions that are being made in the boardrooms of energy companies.”
But auto dealers say more stringent requirements drive up prices and push people out of an already expensive new-car market.
Trump’s administration relaxed fuel economy standards, allowing them rise 1.5% per annum, which was not enough to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gases that fuel climate change. They had been increasing by 5% per annum for the past year.
But the new standards won’t immediately match those adopted through 2025 under President Barack Obama. NHTSA officials said they will equal the Obama standards by 2025 and slightly exceed them for the 2026 model year. The Obama-era standards are automatically adjusted to account for changes in vehicle types. When they were enacted in 2012, 51% of new vehicle sales were cars and 49% SUVs and trucks. Last year, 77% of new vehicle sales were SUVs and trucks, which generally are less efficient than cars. Some environmental groups claim that the new NHTSA requirements under Biden are not sufficient to combat global warming. Others supported the new standards as a significant step towards reducing emissions.
“Climate change has gotten much worse, but these rules only require automakers to reduce gas-guzzling slightly more than they agreed to cut nine years ago,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Center at the Center for Biological Diversity. He stated that the final rule was about 2 mpg less than the strongest alternative that NHTSA considered.
Officials said that under the new standards, owners would save about $1,400 in gasoline costs during the lifetime of a 2029 model year vehicle. Carbon dioxide emissions would drop by 2.5 billion metric tons by 2050 under the standards, the NHTSA said.
Automakers are investing billions of dollars to develop and build electric vehicles but say government support is needed to get people to buy them. To reduce costs and to provide more money for charging stations, the companies are seeking tax credits from the government.
Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, said Friday it’s investing $35 billion on electric and hybrid vehicles and to become carbon neutral by 2038. The company stated in a statement that these aims are crucial to a sustainable future and will be more likely to be realized if the government supports a widespread EV recharging system, point-of sale EV purchase incentives, as well as inducements to increase electric-vehicle production in the U.S.
The NHTSA sets fuel economy standards, while the Environmental Protection Agency sets limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Officials at the NHTSA said that their requirements are close to those of the EPA’s December rules, so automakers don’t have to follow two rules.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.