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New US Emissions Standards Won't Stop Automakers From Increasing Fuel Economy

The Trump rollbacks may not even matter.

In a bit bid to help automakers reach fuel economy targets, the Trump administration has announced a rollback of Obama era fuel economy standards that would lock in fleet fuel economy targets until 2026. Instead of having to reach fleet fuel economy of 50 miles-per-gallon by 2026, these standards only require them to reach an average of 35 mpg. The goal here is to save automakers money by not having to develop expensive technologies to help reach what has been referred to as "unrealistic" standards. Unfortunately, the rollbacks may offer no real benefit to automakers.

In the eyes of the Trump administration, these rollbacks are a way out for automakers that couldn't possibly reach unrealistic fuel economy figures. In reality, automakers have already devoted millions of R&D dollars towards more efficient technologies and Automotive News reports that the EPA rollbacks won't have a major effect on overall fleet averages. Mazda, for example, is already well into the development phase of its revolutionary sparkless gas engine that will be cleaner than electric cars. In other words, it's simply too late for automakers to just give up on these technologies and consumers still crave vehicles with increased fuel efficiency.

"Manufacturers aren't saying 'We're going to stop all our r&d.' That's a fallacy," said Rebecca Lindland, the executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "Twenty percent of Generation Z says it is interested in an environmentally friendly vehicle. Demand is coming, so that's why manufacturers will continue to develop these types of vehicles." Just because the Trump administration has rolled back the standards doesn't mean that automakers won't exceed them anyway.

NHTSA Acting Administrator Heidi King told Automotive News "What we are proposing is a floor at 2020 levels holding out to 2026. And, frankly, it's the floor for an average so, there's room for manufacturers to produce what consumers want." These rollbacks have clearly caused some initial panic, but it seems like they will have less of an impact than what was initially expected.

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