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October 30, 2018   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Fuel Economy Fight – Diesel’s Role in the Fuel Economy Debate

Regardless of the outcome of the fuel economy debate, consumers will continue to have an increasing number of diesel options because of the 20-30 percent fuel economy advantage, long range driving capability and no-compromise on performance.


This week ended the public comment period on the proposed amendments to the U.S. EPA/NHTSA Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE).  EPA’s proposal seeks to modify the Obama Administration rule by maintaining the existing fuel economy standards (which rises to 37 mpg) by 2020 and then to freeze it at that level.  The next step is the review of comments and issuing a final rule. The outcome will play a large part in determining which fuels and technologies will power our vehicles in the future. 

What does this policy mean for future of diesel cars trucks and SUVs?

Regardless of the outcome of the fuel economy debate, consumers will continue to have an increasing number of diesel options because of the 20-30 percent fuel economy advantage, long range driving capability and no-compromise on performance. 

Currently there are 45 choices available representing a dozen brands, across most vehicle segments.  One indicator about the future for diesel can be found in the new vehicle introductions for 2019 where for the first time ever a diesel engine option will be available in each of the top selling vehicles - full size pickup trucks - for the first time ever – new engines from GM and Ford to compete with the successful RAM 1500 Ecodiesel – the pioneer of the full size pickup truck diesel space, along with the Nissan Titan HD with the Cummins diesel engine option.

Three major aspects intersect in the fuel economy debate:  proper alignment of desired policy outcomes; reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the market realities and all the factors that influence it, including consumer choice, fuel prices and the overall health of the economy.  Finally, the major influencing factor is a desire for a single national program, rather than a federal approach and California plus 13 states that have adopted California standards.

The reality of the U.S. consumer market is a major point of contention driving change in the rules. The original Obama Administration standard assumed at the time that two thirds of vehicles sold would be cars and one-third SUVs and light trucks.  The market reality however is almost reversed - with the greatest demand for larger vehicles. Full size pickup trucks from GM, RAM and Ford are the top selling vehicles in America month after month. 

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector – now the largest sector of CO2 emissions, is a goal automakers share with others.  The question is how best to get there and produce efficient, affordable vehicles that consumers actually want to buy.

So while there are no specifics in the proposed rule targeting diesel, it is clear that the diesel options for U.S. consumers are in the mix in the marketplace, have been successful even without more aggressive fuel economy mandates. Manufacturers are investing significant resources into electrification, hopeful that the consumer demand for fully electric vehicles strengthens. And, there is the rational view that the internal combustion engine is going to continue to power the majority of all personal vehicles for decades to come.



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Key Contact

Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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