Ahead of shift to EVs, auto industry makes slow progress on efficiency

Source: By Timothy Puko, Washington Post • Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Greenhouse gas emissions for U.S. cars and trucks fell just 5% from model year 2016 through 2021 as the Trump administration eased federal requirements

Traffic builds up on the Capital Beltway in Virginia in September. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

American automakers are starting to reduce tailpipe emissions again after several years of stalled improvements in fuel efficiency, according to new federal data released Monday, a product of the Biden administration restoring rules eased by Trump officials.

U.S. passenger cars and light duty trucks are on course to get about 5% more efficient in the most recent model year, 2022, averaging more than 26 miles per gallon for the first time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA released these estimates Monday as part of an annual report on the country’s auto fleet, a leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The data shows the industry made very little progress on efficiency from model year 2016 through 2021, as cheap gasoline prices lured new buyers to purchase sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, making them the dominant choice for consumers. Nationwide fuel economy gained just 5% in that span, at a time when a deal with automakers originally struck during the Obama administration was supposed to require gains of more than 20%.