By Andrew Childers
April 25 — Light-duty vehicle manufacturers achieved more greenhouse gas emissions reductions in model year 2012 vehicles than was required by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to an annual EPA report.
On average, 2012 vehicles emitted 10 grams less carbon dioxide per mile than the EPA's emissions standard requires, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe told reporters April 25. Model year 2012 was the first year manufacturers were required to comply with the greenhouse gas emissions standard.
“Manufacturers are developing clean vehicles faster than anticipated, and consumers are supporting it,” Perciasepe said.
According to the April 25 report, “Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Light-Duty Vehicles: Manufacturer Performance Report for the 2012 Model Year,” automobile manufacturers generated 25 million credits during model year 2012 as a result of producing vehicles with better performance than the EPA's greenhouse gas emissions standard for light-duty vehicles. The credits can be used in future model years to offset any emissions that may exceed the required fleet averages.
The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2010 issued a joint rule to increase the greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for model year 2012 through 2016 cars and light trucks. The rule requires manufacturers to increase fuel economy from a combined 25 miles per gallon to 35.5 mpg by model year 2016 (75 Fed. Reg. 25,324).
The two agencies subsequently issued a second joint rule that would require manufacturers to achieve 54.5 mpg by 2025 if all of the required greenhouse gas emissions reductions are achieved through fuel economy improvements (77 Fed. Reg. 62,624).
Automobile manufacturers praised their results but also cautioned that sales are driven by consumer demand.
“Automakers have invested billions of dollars in researching and developing new technologies, and we're eager for consumers to embrace our new innovations,” the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement. “Nevertheless, it's important to remember that these technologies will compete with other features that consumers value. Compliance with federal greenhouse gas standards depends not only on what engineers can do, but what customers are willing to accept.”
Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told reporters April 25 that half of the credits generated by manufacturers in 2012 came from over-compliance with the tailpipe emissions standard.
Another 25 percent were generated by improvements to air conditioning systems, while the remaining 25 percent came from production of flexible-fuel vehicles.
Of the 20 manufacturers included in the report, only Jaguar Land Rover won't be carrying credits forward into model year 2013.
The report doesn't include data from Hyundai and Kia because EPA in 2012 found widespread discrepancies in the fuel economy data for model year 2012 and 2013 vehicles following an audit.
Grundler said those manufacturers won't be included in future reports until the agency's investigation is complete.
Dan Becker, director of the Center for Auto Safety's Safe Climate Campaign, told Bloomberg BNA that many large manufacturers were only able to come into compliance through use of credits accumulated for early action.
In addition, he criticized the use of credits generated by production of flexible fuel vehicles capable of using gasoline containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E85).
Manufacturers receive credits even though the majority of flex fuel vehicles rarely use the fuel. Only 2 percent of retail stations nationwide have E85 pumps, he said.
“It's a loophole that auto manufacturers are using that has no benefit,” he said.
This is the second of the EPA's annual reports on automobile manufacturers' compliance with the vehicle standards. Manufacturers had previously accumulated 209 million credits through early compliance measures, according to a 2013 report.
Model year 2012 vehicles emitted a record low 376 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, down 22 grams per mile compared to model year 2011 vehicles, the EPA said in a similar report issued in December 2013.
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The EPA report, “Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Light-Duty Vehicles: Manufacturer Performance Report for the 2012 Model Year,” is available at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/documents/420r14011.pdf.
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