New high gas mileage standard could make vehicles cost more, less safe

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Want pigs to fly, brussels sprouts to taste like Twinkies, and Justin Bieber to get a haircut? By the government’s logic, just make a rule mandating that it must be so and…voila! All of a sudden beachfront property can now to be purchased in Kansas!

The Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency suggested Friday that by 2025 new vehicle fleets would need to meet a high gas mileage standard of between 47 mpg and 62 mpg. The administration’s plans for the country’s future fuel efficiency standards are extremely aggressive — so aggressive that  some experts wonder whether the mandates are even attainable.

Despite panic by some, Charlie Territo, senior director of communications for the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, says that it is important to keep in mind that the mileage standards are not definite, as Friday’s announcement was merely a preliminary notice of intent.

According to Territo, the rule making process will be a long one, but there will be consequences for the average consumer. “Anytime you add technology to a vehicle you add cost,” he told The Daily Caller. “And the types of technologies that would need to be added to a vehicle to meet those standards could have the potential to price consumers out of the market all together.”

Even without the government’s insistence, auto manufacturers already work exceptionally hard at innovating and improving their products’ capabilities. Spokesman Matthew Russell, for example, told TheDC that since the late 1970s BMW has been working to do just that. “We have a comprehensive program in place already, which is designed to extract the maximum balance of performance and efficiency from several different energy sources, so not just gasoline but diesel, hybrid technology, and even hydrogen where applicable,” Russell said.

An industry observer told TheDC that in order to meet the mileage range the government could demand, people will have little choice but to buy electric cars. “It’s great, it’s a great thought, and we hope we get there, but you have issues of range, you have issues of infrastructure, and you have issues of cost. Now if, if gas stays around the three dollar a gallon range, people are not going to go rush to pay thousands of dollars more per vehicle. It’s going to be very, very difficult,” the industry observer said.

Sam Kasman, the general council for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told TheDC that the goal is far too high to be realistic. “Frankly I think they are in fantasy land,” he said. “To one extent I expect they are placing a very heavy bet on electric vehicles, but it is easy for them to bet because they are betting with our money, not their own.”

Beyond whether a 62 mpg car is fathomable, the fact remains, cars that are able to attain such high gas mileage tend to be lightweight and dangerous. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader told TheDC that safety is always harmed with ratcheting up a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. “If the rules lead to incentives for people to buy smaller, lighter vehicles, then, we’re trading more crash deaths for better fuel economy. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

Automakers hope to maintain safety and the same wide range of consumer choice Americans currently enjoy, while at the same time meeting the government’s expectations. Territo says that auto manufactures in the past have been able to have their voices heard in the rule making process.

“The goal is to ensure that consumers continue to have a wide variety of vehicles,” said Territo. “And the way that can be done is to give manufacturers the right amount of lead time to do it. The more realistic the standards are the better the chance they have of meeting it with the least possible impact on the consumer.”

The administration hopes to have a proposal by September 2011 and a final rule by July 2012.

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