SAE panels discuss CAFE standards in era of low-priced oil

SAE panels discuss CAFE standards in era of low-priced oil

The Government/Industry Conference of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) on Jan. 21 — open to all WAS Public Policy Day attendees — took on the subject of meeting fuel economy standards in an environment of low oil prices and high SUV sales. In the first panel, automaker representatives said they would have a hard time reaching Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025 when customers are clamoring for SUVs and light trucks.

–The industry is complying with the standards,” said Tom Stricker, Toyota vice president of technology and regulatory affairs. –Our concern is that fuel prices are low, and sales of hybrids and cars [as opposed to trucks] are down.”

Roland Hwang, transportation director and policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, took exception to Strickerês assertion. –With record sales and tremendous profits, now is the time to double down on future needs.” Added David Friedman, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Energy, –We have to make sure weêre not thinking about too small a timeframe.”

John Murphy, lead U.S. auto analyst for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, stated, –there is a massive concern in the investment community that regulations will hurt [automaker] profitability.”

In the second panel of the SAE Conference, federal and state representatives took the tougher standards as a given and debated how to encourage customers to buy fuel-efficient vehicles. In the congested cities of California, the fact that EV drivers can use the HOV lanes is a big incentive, said Analisa Bevan, assistant division chief for emissions compliance at California Air Resources Board. CARB has a mandate from Governor Jerry Brown to cut petroleum use in half by 2030.

Matt Solomon, transportation program manager for NESCAUM (an association of air qualify agencies from several Northeastern states), said incentives such as tax credits and better infrastructure (more EV charging stations) are two ways to ramp up consumer demand.

Bevan said dealer organizations tell CARB that customers often come to the dealership knowing exactly what they want, so the decision doesnêt get made in the dealership. CARB has been asked to provide dealers with answers to questions that customers might ask about fuel efficiency. Christopher Gundler, director of EPAês Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said EPA wants to make sure automakers are training dealers to deal with such questions.

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