New vehicles must average 40mpg by 2026, up from 28mpg | lifestyles

By TOM KRISHER – AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) — New vehicles sold in the U.S. must average at least 40 miles per gallon of gasoline in 2026, up from about 28 mpg, according to new federal rules unveiled Friday that include a rollback of those under President Donald Trump revoke issued standards.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said its new fuel economy requirements are the strongest yet and the maximum the industry can achieve over time. They will reduce gas mileage by more than 220 billion gallons over the life of vehicles compared to Trump standards.

They are expected to cut carbon emissions – but not by as much as some environmentalists would like – and raise new car prices in an industry already weighed down by inflation and supply chain problems.

For the current model year, standards enacted under Trump require the fleet of new vehicles to achieve just under 28 miles per gallon in real world driving. The new requirements increase gas mileage by 8% per year for the 2024 and 2025 model years and by 10% for the 2026 model year.

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department NHTSA is a part of, said the rules would also help strengthen national security by making the country less dependent on foreign oil and less vulnerable to volatile gasoline prices. Gasoline has risen to more than $4.22 a gallon on average nationwide, with much of the rise coming since Russia, a major oil producer, invaded Ukraine in late February. According to AAA, it was $2.88 a gallon just a year ago.

Gas prices have also helped push inflation to a 40-year high, eating away at household budgets and reaching President Joe Biden’s approval ratings.

“Transportation is the second largest expense for American families, right behind housing,” Buttigieg said. The new standards, he said, would help make the US safer and “preserving our country’s freedom to plan its future without being subject to other countries and the decisions made in the boardrooms of energy companies.”

But car dealers say stricter requirements are driving up prices and pushing people out of an already expensive new car market. NHTSA predicts the new rules will increase the price of a new 2029 model year vehicle by $1,087.

The Trump administration has rolled back fuel economy standards and allowed them to rise by 1.5% per year, which environmental groups say is insufficient to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. Previously, standards were increasing at about 5% per year.

But the new standards will not immediately match those adopted by 2025 under President Barack Obama. NHTSA officials said they will meet Obama standards by 2025 and will slightly exceed them for the 2026 model year.

Obama-era standards were automatically adjusted to reflect changes in the types of vehicles people buy. When they went into effect in 2012, cars accounted for 51% of new vehicle sales and 49% for SUVs and trucks. Last year, SUVs and trucks, which are generally less efficient than cars, accounted for 77% of new car sales.

Some environmental groups said NHTSA’s new requirements under Biden didn’t go far enough to combat global warming. Others supported the new standards as a big step towards reducing emissions, with the American Lung Association calling for even stricter standards to drive the transition to all new vehicles with zero emissions by 2035.

“Climate change has gotten much worse, but these rules only require automakers to cut gas mileage a little more than they pledged nine years ago,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Center at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Officials said that under the new standards, owners would save about $1,400 in gasoline costs over the lifetime of a 2029 model year vehicle. Carbon dioxide emissions would fall below standards by 2.5 billion tons by 2050, the NHTSA said.

Automakers are investing billions of dollars developing and building electric vehicles, but say government support is needed to persuade people to buy. Businesses want state tax credits to bring prices down, as well as more money for electric vehicle charging stations to ease fears of the juice shortage.

John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a large industrial trade group, said increased regulations require supportive government policies. Regulators should consider safety, consumer purchasing preferences, improved fuel efficiency and the transition to electric vehicles, he said in a statement.

The NHTSA sets fuel economy requirements, while the Environmental Protection Agency develops greenhouse gas emission limits. NHTSA officials said their requirements almost match rules passed by the EPA in December, leaving automakers free of two rules.

This story has been corrected to show that the current real-world mileage requirement is 28mpg, not 24mpg, under Trump administration rules.

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