There are two driving forces outside of our industry that have had the greatest effect on the direction it has taken the past 40 plus years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) have both influenced the development of cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles from the gas guzzlers of the ’60s and ’70s to today’s highly technical powertrains.
Personally I believe we, as an industry, would have gotten to this point through advances in technology and good old-fashioned competitiveness but we will leave that for another discussion. The fact remains that we live in a world of regulation and those standards demand that we rise to the occasion and meet the challenge.
The most recent standards took shape back in 2010 when these agencies finalized the first set of National Program standards for MY (model year) 2012-2016. These were followed by a second set of standards for MY 2017-2025 in the fall of 2012. You may recall talk of a 54.5 mpg by MY 2025 as being the new “gold standard.” One of the goals of the EPA and NHTSA has been to set a “National Standard” that would bring Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and Green House Gas (GHG) into a coordinated model. To this end the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has joined the effort so as to have a truly representative standard. This would allow automakers to build one fleet of vehicles across the U.S. that would satisfy all requirements. No more “California and everybody else”!
The most recent development has been a Midterm Evaluation (MTE) report referred to as a Draft Technical Assessment Report or Draft TAR. The purpose of this report is to review the standards applied in 2010 and again in 2012, consider the technological advances within the industry along with other factors and determine the feasibility of those standards. Although each agency is responsible for different aspects (EPA – GHG Emissions / NHTSA – CAFE) of the policy, the Draft TAR looks at all the factors that determine the final standards as a whole. Keep in mind, the TAR is an assessment report and not the final ruling. Both agencies will file a final ruling no later than April 1, 2018.
The report is extremely comprehensive and covers all aspects of the subject matter. Recent trends in vehicle development, technology advancements and consumer acceptance of that technology are just three areas of consideration included in the report. A link to the report can be found at the end of this article.
One of the more significant aspects of the report seems to be in the “projected technologies” needed by MY 2025 to meet the standards developed in the 2012 rulings. Although hybridization and full electrification are technologies that seem to be here to stay, the report reveals a slightly different view. “The agencies’ analyses each project that the MY 2022-2025 standards can be met largely through improvements in gasoline vehicle technologies, such as improvements in engines, transmissions, light-weighting, aerodynamics, and accessories.” According to the report, these projections seem to be consistent with an Academy of Sciences report issued in 2015. The internal combustion engine is alive and well and the future, despite some naysayers, is bright! The following table, taken from the report, illustrates these findings.
1. Percentages shown are absolute rather than incremental. These values reflect both EPA and NHTSA’s primary analyses; both agencies present additional sensitivity analyses in Chapter 12 (GHG) and Chapter 13 (CAFE). For EPA this includes a pathway where higher compression ratio naturally aspirated gasoline engines are held at a 10% penetration, and the major changes are turbocharged and downsized gasoline engines increase to 47% and mild hybrids increase to 38% (See Chapter 12.1.2)
2. Including continuously variable transmissions (CVT)
3. In EPA’s modeling, the California Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) program is considered in the reference case fleet; therefore, 3.5% of the fleet is projected to be full EV or PHEV in the 2022-2025 timeframe due to the ZEV program and the adoption of that program by nine additional states.
As stated, the final ruling is not due until early 2018, at which time the EPA has three options: retain the standards set in 2012, make them less stringent or make them more stringent. Whatever the decision, in order to maintain a joint “National Standard,” the agencies involved will issue their analysis concurrently.

You can review the Summary Report at:

Gary Stamberger owns and operates Cross Creek Automotive Services Training and Consulting. Reach him at: or 260-249-0193