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U.S. fuel economy standard raised to 27.3 mpg for 2011

The U.S. administration has recently issued new rules of fuel economy standards for all light vehicles, rising 8 percent to an average of 27.3 miles per gallon for the 2011 model year from the current 25.3 mpg, according to media reports.

Under the new regulations, passenger cars will be required to travel at an average of 30.2 miles on each gallon of fuel and light trucks (including pickups and SUVs) have to average 24.1 mpg in 2011. The combined fleet average for 2011 models is supposed to achieve 27.3 miles per gallon, claimed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“These standards are important steps in the natio’s quest to achieve energy independence and bring more fuel-efficient vehicles to American families,” said U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood in a statement stressing that work on future mileage programs must take into account the health of U.S. manufacturers.

The three auto giants in Detroit that profited for years from larger but less efficient vehicles have to face the double hit by the economic slowdown and consumer shift away from their gas-guzzling products. General Motors and Chrysler are seeking new government bailouts, while Ford is struggling for self-survival.

Calculated by the administration, the new standards would save nearly 900 million gallons of fuel and reduce 8.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emission over the lifetime of model year vehicles. Overall benefits to consumers could reach more than $2 billion from the program including less money spent on fuel.  

The fuel-economy standards stemmed from a U.S. energy law effective in December 2007. It’s actually a step back from the 27.8 mpg proposed under the Bush Administration last April. But after careful assessment of potential fuel costs, President Obama has to make the decision for new standards prior to April 1 deadline.

To meet the new standard, vehicle development should be intensified in making compacts, sedans and other fuel-efficient passenger cars. Still, any improvement on cars will require new technology both in powering and weight reduction without losing functionality. Perhaps the new standards will give new life to the small and hybrid cars abandoned by the market previously.

In fact many passenger cars made by Japanese automakers have already met or exceeded the present standards. While Honda is expecting its hybrid Insight to get 41 mpg, Toyota is planning for the Prius to win 46 mpg by 2010. As someone says, Americans should be put to innovative work to produce vehicles that actually save fuel.

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