A recent report published by the EPA in collaboration with other government agencies warns that low gas prices could influence consumers to purchase more gas guzzlers and pose a threat to green house gas emission and fuel efficiency targets.
The report, titled The Midterm Evaluation of Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for Model Years 2022-2025, found that since 2012, vehicle sales in the United States have been on the rise and hit a record high of 17.5 million automobiles in 2105. Consumers have been purchasing larger trucks, SUVs and low-fuel efficiency vehicles over the last several years in correlation with low gas prices.
Simultaneously, there has been an increase in fuel-efficient petrol, hybrid and electric vehicles penetrating the market. Battery technology is also advancing more rapidly than expected, which could drive down the price of fuel efficient electric vehicles.
The authors surveyed civil society groups – including the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel and Pew Charitable Trust – all of which reported “consumers continue to want fuel economy improvements, since they expect gas prices will rise.”
The study developed several scenarios to depict plausible average miles per gallon (MPG) and associated green house gas emissions target levels for America’s light-duty automobile fleet in 2025 (note that SUVs and heavy-duty trucks fall under different GHG and fuel efficiency targets).
The projections indicate that if fuel prices are low, the average MPG, grams CO2 emissions per mile and car to truck ratio would be 50, 178 and 48/52 percent respectively; whereas, under a high fuel price scenario the numbers would be 52.6, 47.7 and 62/38 percent respectively. Both of these scenarios fall short of the EPAs previous 2025 targets, set in 2012, of 54.5, 163, and 67/33 percent respectively.
Keep in mind that these are projections, and uncertainty in future fuel prices, technological advancements, improvements in public transportation and increased desire for non-motorized transport, could sway consumer transit trends in the coming years. However, if consumers exhibit these purchasing habits, automobile makers may insist on less stringent mandates.