The Obama Administration released new fuel economy rules today that would require new cars to reach average fuel economy targets of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
The rules, which begin to phase in in 2017, have long been anticipated following an agreement among automakers, the federal government, and the state of California, which had set even more stringent requirements.
Automakers widely expect to build many more hybrids and electric cars to meet the requirements. The new rule builds upon current standards that call for automakers to raise fuel efficiency to 35.4 mpg by 2016. That would nearly double the average 27-mpg of today's cars.
Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, praised the announcement as a consumer-friendly rule that will help consumers save money at the pump.
"These standards mean consumers will be able to save thousands of dollars on gasoline over the lifetime of their vehicle," said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union. "This is an achievable target that will make a positive impact in people's everyday lives. Increasing fuel efficiency in the next generation of vehicles goes beyond simple savings. It also helps lower oil consumption and cuts pollution while consumers save money on gasoline. "
Consumers Union has long supported increased fuel economy standards, filing comments and testifying in favor of the increased efficiency standards at public hearings held by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the EPA.
An April 2012 poll by Consumer Reports found strong support for the increased fuel-efficiency standards, where almost 80 percent of consumers agreed or strongly agreed that "fuel economy standards should require auto manufacturers to increase the overall fleet average to at least 55 miles per gallon."
Overall, nearly three quarters (73 percent) of participants said "they would consider some type of alternatively fueled vehicle, with flex-fuel (which can run on E85 ethanol) and hybrid models leading the way. The survey also found that fuel economy was the most important consideration to consumers when shopping for their next car. The Consumer Reports National Research Center interviewed 1,702 adults in households that had at least one car in a random, nationwide telephone survey in April.
Consumer groups and the government have estimated the cost of the new technologies at $1,800 to $2,200 per vehicle, which would be more than offset by fuel savings. Other groups promote higher estimates.
But one thing is sure: "Gasoline prices and fuel economy are clearly on consumers' minds when they go to buy a new vehicle," says Jake Fisher, Director of Auto Testing for Consumer Reports. "Our surveys show that consumers are interested in finding new ways to achieve that, like turning to hybrids and other alternatively fueled vehicles. The new fuel-efficiency standard will help provide consumers with a fleet of vehicles that will reduce the bill at the gas station."
Learn how you can save fuel today in our guide to fuel economy.