Operation 54.5 in progress for automakers

The EPA says the average fuel efficiency of vehicles in the U.S. improved to 24 mpg last year.

Subaru (FUJHY), Volkswagen (VLKAY), and Mazda (MZDAY) topped the list with fleet-wide averages of 26 mpg or better.

Chrysler (FIATY), General Motors (GM), and Ford (F) all fell below the industry average due to their higher mix of pickups trucks, while Daimler (DDAIF) kept luxury a priority over slashing weight.

Tesla Motors (TSLA) boasts a gaudy equivalent efficiency rating of 89 mpg, but didn't sell enough cars to land in the rankings.

What to watch: The U.S. government wants each automaker to boast a fleet average of 54.5 mpg or better by 2025. If those regulations stands, it will create a need for a higher mix of vehicles powered by electric and fuel cell technology as moves like Ford's to build F-150s with aluminum won't be enough to swing the averages far enough north.

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Comments (22)
  • jstack6
    , contributor
    Comments (111) | Send Message
    What's the sales quantity to be ranked? Tesla will reach it soon no matter what that number is.
    30 Apr 2014, 12:49 PM Reply Like
  • Ford Man 26
    , contributor
    Comments (67) | Send Message
    it's insane to require manufacturers to meet a certain quota, espcially when different products perform differently (cars, trucks, suv's) and companies have different product mixes. Why doesn't the government require cell phone companies sell a certain quantity of phones without LCD screens, or oil companies sell a certain quantity of E85 fuel vs. regular unleaded . . . . because it makes no sense. we live in a market driven economy yet auto companies are forced to make products that people don't want, and lose money doing it.
    30 Apr 2014, 12:52 PM Reply Like
  • fan of the underdog
    , contributor
    Comments (852) | Send Message
    Because the avg consumer always appeases their base desires first over ecological considerations. That's why Tesla succeeded, where others failed.


    The market only chooses the cheapest solution, not the "best". That's why ICE's beat out EV's back in the early 1900's. The CAFE standard is a compromise for forcing the choices to being better for the environment than what the market would've produced.
    30 Apr 2014, 01:10 PM Reply Like
  • chimidog
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    Regarding Ford Man 26's comments:


    First- Forcing the sale of E85 would be a move backwards because E85 provides much lower MPG numbers than regular gasoline - I believe about 25 to 30% lower mpg than regular. Visit: http://1.usa.gov/wlmWTa for real world numbers for various cars. Plus it drives up food costs since its made from corn, if it were made from switch grass as in Brazil it wouldn't be so bad. Also keep in mind there are huge subsidies on E85 that the industry rather not talk about. Without subsidies E85 would cost dramatically more than regular.


    As for the being market driven - that is true to a point - the problem is too many people do not care enough about the mpg they get. If we are ever going to get the industry to bring new and better technologies (electric, fuel cell etc) to the market mandating higher mpg is the only practical way to do it.
    1 May 2014, 09:40 AM Reply Like
  • Ford Man 26
    , contributor
    Comments (67) | Send Message
    I understand that the public does not care about fuel efficiency or pollution like they "should", but you don't force companies to produce something no one wants. If we want the government to drive behavior then do something that impacts consumer behavior . . . like Europe has: tax gas, tax gas gusslers, give tax credits for EV's, etc. Increased tax revenue could start putting a dent in our national debt as well. If it's for the greater good, make everyone pay for it - not just the companies that make the product. The only reason we are seeing ecoboost engines and hybrids now is because gas prices jumped up $2/gal back in 2008 and consumers starting caring about fuel economy. Not because of CAFE standards.
    1 May 2014, 10:16 AM Reply Like
  • Robin Hewitt
    , contributor
    Comments (5553) | Send Message
    U.S. is politically unable to pass high taxes on gas. One reason for the difference is Europe's more developed transportation infrastructure. But the bigger reason is that U.S. is simply more tax averse than, say, Germany. CAFE has been politically possible and has been highly effective. It keeps U.S. car products more competitive too, so (coupled with incentive financing) it actually helps the industry.
    1 May 2014, 10:25 AM Reply Like
  • Ford Man 26
    , contributor
    Comments (67) | Send Message
    CAFE standards have not been 'highly effective'. According to the link below, average passenger car fuel economy rose 4mpg between 1985 and 2008 (23yrs) but rose another 4mpg between 2008 and 2012 (4yrs) . . . since fuel prices came up $2gal and consumers 'valued' the fuel efficiency.


    And during the 80's and 90's the Big-3 sold compact cars and trucks at a loss in order to meet the CAFE requirement . . . they lost money to push product on a minority of consumers because the general public was not interested in them.


    I guess a developed transportation infrastructure means there are alternatives if fuel prices rise due to taxation . . . on the other hand, the government needs to put a priority on transportation infrastructure and a gas tax would provide revenue to pay for it . . . This country just simply lacks a strategy for dealing with fuel consumption and polution.


    2 May 2014, 10:02 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    I will say that 54.5 mpg is insane using the current EPA test.


    When no car is at that point today, sans EVs, it does not bode well for the average.


    There is a delicate balance between performance, mpg, saftey, and type of cars/trucks sold.


    Sticking a 1 L, 100 hp hybrid engine in a F150 isn't going to fly with the people who use it.


    Toyota, Honda, and Nissan may get there, but the others probably not; the F series trucks, Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, and large SUVs are going to bring that average down.


    That is a very ambitious number that currently even the mpg poster car, the Prius, does not meet per the EPA testing.
    With the Prius, they may make it to 60 mpg, but that is based on the gen 1 to gen 3 change. Other than that, it is going to rough. I don't see any truck getting even close, nor many cars getting close to that 54.5 mpg


    Expect either an extension, a lowering of the criteria, or a change to the EPA test in the coming years, or a little of all 3.
    30 Apr 2014, 01:17 PM Reply Like
  • po folks
    , contributor
    Comments (80) | Send Message
    While I am in agreement with the comments, I might add another to the author's "what to watch" listing:


    Substantial lightweighting like in Ford's aluminum F150, has a double bonus when applied to EV's.


    The lightweighting creates a virtuous cycle of body/frame reduction which leads to powetrain and chassis reduction which then leads back to the body/frame again for more lightweighting. And so on...


    EVs carry a lot of battery weight to achieve a design range with their limited energy storage capacity. You gain range in direct proportion to weight savings, which also leads to battery lightweighting (downsizing).


    Less structure mass, smaller battery and powertrain, same payload...I believe this can be used in combinations to achieve the 54.5 targets across a whole product line, cost efficiently, without sacrificing vehicle size, performance or safety.
    30 Apr 2014, 01:40 PM Reply Like
  • Currant85
    , contributor
    Comments (418) | Send Message
    If they make them too light, won't we have flying cars and trucks in heavy wind storms? :-)
    30 Apr 2014, 10:01 PM Reply Like
  • John Bingham
    , contributor
    Comments (1301) | Send Message
    po folks,


    Making a car lighter works for ICE cars but not so much for EVs.


    That sounds crazy but it is a fact. At low speeds the range will increase roughly proportionally to the reduction in weight as "rolling resistance" is the predominant factor. Of course you also need different tires for a lightweight car and this also affects rolling resistance, so the effect may not be as much as you think.


    Unfortunately, as you drive faster the most important factor is drag, and this causes the biggest drain as you approach 40 MPH and above for most cars. That's why "hypermilers" tend to drive below 25 MPH. So for much of your driving the weight is not the important factor. The only way you can improve drag is by changing the profile of the car, which is why most cars today are moving to a more rounded front shape.


    The other way to improve drag is to make the car much lower and narrower. You can see this in racing cars and experimental cars where there is really only room for the driver, and then he has to sit in a semi-reclining position. But that's not very practical for a family sedan!


    The other time when you need a lot of energy is in accelerating, and this is where an EV really wins out over an ICE. A heavy car will use much more energy to accelerate than a light one, and in an ICE car that energy is lost forever. But in an EV you get a significant proportion of the energy back again when you slow down thanks to regenerative braking. And the heavier the car, the more you put back into the battery.


    So being lighter has advantages, but for an EV it is not the most important factor.
    1 May 2014, 04:35 AM Reply Like
  • chipdoctor
    , contributor
    Comments (2607) | Send Message
    Hi John,


    I am a bit surprised that some with a history in Physics is making such a claim.


    I do agree with your Cd, frontage area and velocity claims in which a vehicle traveling at highway speeds benefits from improved aerodynamics. This is glider/sled design dependent, and really does not benefit one technology significantly over another (though the low battery pack, smaller electric motor and lack of radiator may allow EVs to have a better low Cd design).


    For city driving, the main factors are rolling resistance and accelerating the vehicle to speed. Both of these are mass/weight dependent, and in either the ICE or EV case, the lower mass improves energy efficiency.


    EVs/Hybrids offer the additional benefit or reclaiming part of the kinetic energy of the moving mass during deceleration. However, this is far from 100% efficient. While you may be able to achieve 75% reclamation going from 40mph to 20mph, the last 20 mph reclamation is difficult and not that efficient.


    Weight/mass does matter, and given the 1000 lbs plus of current Model S' battery pack, it is probable that this is easier to achieve with small ICE vehicles.


    Sizing the battery for 90% of the applications (40 miles/day) and using energy dense petro along with a high efficiency ICE is the best solution we have today.
    2 May 2014, 11:51 AM Reply Like
  • chipdoctor
    , contributor
    Comments (2607) | Send Message
    As much as I am not a fan of Government forcing themselves into an open market situation -- the average consumer does not appreciate the long term fuel costs when making a vehicle purchase. They certainly understand the initial price however.


    To make a vehicle more fuel efficient costs money. No single manufacturer would take this on, as they would lose market share to their competitors. To continue on with high gas consumption vehicles, especially when we have the technology to fix it is just stupid.


    The government needs to step in to force the technology advancement. And, while we will experience higher price vehicles, we should realize lower operating costs to balance out the initial expense.


    The smart OEM will figure out how to get the mpg required when providing the performance we are use to.


    The government requirement is certainly a positive for Tesla stock, as well as for hybrids and small engine vehicles.
    30 Apr 2014, 01:53 PM Reply Like
  • Robin Hewitt
    , contributor
    Comments (5553) | Send Message
    Gov't sets the standards but also helps support innovation to achieve them through DOE funding.
    1 May 2014, 01:37 AM Reply Like
  • ted lujan
    , contributor
    Comments (1695) | Send Message
    Hey, nothing unusual for a large centralize government to impose crazy regulations. How else can they justify their jobs. If the auto companies meet the current standards they will jack them up some more just to show them who is in control.
    30 Apr 2014, 03:32 PM Reply Like
  • Anton Wahlman
    , contributor
    Comments (4241) | Send Message
    The government should not tell people what products to sell or buy. It's that simple. Where is the constitutional authority for this? If someone wants to pay 2x for a 25 MPG car than a 50 MPG car, so what? It's their money.
    30 Apr 2014, 05:04 PM Reply Like
  • manfredthree
    , contributor
    Comments (3127) | Send Message
    @Anton...nor should any of us have the unfettered right to pollute the air our neighbours must breathe. Just that simple a quid pro quo. We delegate the rule making to government so we force concensus. Simple so far.
    The auto makers need not despair. They are extremely innovative when needed. Lightweighting is also proportional. Not just lower frame/shell weight, but lower everything-else-weight. Any by far the easiest way to eliminate weight is EV/FCEL alternatives that demolish drive train weights. We are about to enter a race to the bottom... weight that is. Invest accordingly. We are loving our early stage investments in aluminum , EV tech, and related alt. energy, leds , etc.. WE have told the government to MAKE IT HAPPEN.
    30 Apr 2014, 08:27 PM Reply Like
  • niboryak
    , contributor
    Comments (114) | Send Message
    ****,,,,,,,,Tesla stock now showing all bullish technical analsys. First of all, within just 9 trading days, it's tested the STILL RISING 100-sma successfully 2 times in just the past 2-weeks @ $185 then 9 days later @ $190.50. Secondly, on the weeklies, both the 20 AND the 40-week moving averages are still uptrending and the 20 has never even come close to going near to the 40. (Cramer did a whole piece on that a few nights ago referring to any momo stocks that crossed below the 40-week moving average as dead money; don't buy.) And finally; both volume and price are increasing and the daily MACD has just crossed to the upside.**********.... Hoping for ALL of us, shorts too, that i'm reading this right. IF i am, then this stock is now a 'right-now' buy.
    30 Apr 2014, 05:31 PM Reply Like
  • Budavar
    , contributor
    Comments (1410) | Send Message
    Repeat last week's switch reco
    (A switch = sell one stock + use proceeds to buy another)


    Sell GM ($35.48) buy SDRL.($35.22)
    It is no longer possible to trade share for share but still not too late
    to get into the far less regulated top dog deep sea driller SDRL,
    with a low PER + a high yield = 10%!
    30 Apr 2014, 06:09 PM Reply Like
  • ted lujan
    , contributor
    Comments (1695) | Send Message
    Tesla reminds me of the Delorean Gull winged Auto; it was going to be the hot car of the future. I believe it burned a lot of investors when it went belly up. Sure hope this does not happen to Tesla.
    1 May 2014, 10:38 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Actually Delorean had alot more in common with Fisker than with Tesla.


    1. Both John Delorean and Henrick Fisker were both automotive designers
    2. Fisker and Delorean both did not have "core technology"
    3. The Fisker and Delorean both were underpowered in terms of the looks
    1 May 2014, 09:07 PM Reply Like
  • surferbroadband
    , contributor
    Comments (5117) | Send Message
    The EPA forcing gas mileage onto new cars is not a good idea. Smart consumers will buy the vehicles with the good mileage anyway.


    And the really smart consumers will buy electric cars to avoid buying gasoline.


    That is the way to go.
    2 May 2014, 01:28 AM Reply Like
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