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WASHINGTON (Dec. 12) - The Bush administration announced a modest increase Thursday in fuel economy requirements for sport utility vehicles, minivans and small trucks, beginning with the 2005 model year.

The change, which will become final after a 60-day comment period, represents the first tightening of motor vehicle fuel use since 1996, when Congress imposed a freeze on the federal fuel economy requirements on automakers.

The Transportation Department rule will require fleet-average fuel economy for so-called ''light trucks'' - SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans - to increase 1.5 miles per gallon over three years beginning with new vehicles coming into showrooms in late 2004.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the new requirements will ''save 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline and improve the environment.''

But environmentalists scoffed at what they called a ''minuscule'' tightening of fuel economy requirements on automakers.

''If you measure the fuel savings in gallons you've got a trivial amount,'' said Daniel Lashoff of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The country uses about 19 million barrels of oil a day, about 40 percent of which is used by motor vehicles. There are 42 gallons to a barrel. Motor vehicles account for about a fifth of the carbon dioxide emissions linked to climate change.

Automakers now must meet a fleet average fuel economy of 20.7 mpg for SUVs, minivans and pickups, a standard that has been in place since 1996. The proposed requirement will gradually ratchet that up to 22.2 mpg between the 2005 and 2007 model years.

The mileage requirement for other passenger vehicles will remain 27.5 miles per gallon, where it has been since 1990.

The rule mirrors a proposal sent to the White House for review last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Transportation Department agency that administers the program.

Spokesmen for the automakers said a 1.5 mpg increase was ''a significant increase'' and a ''daunting'' challenge if producers are to continue to provide customers with a wide range of SUVs, including the larger models.

''Achieving this standard depends on consumers buying our fuel-efficient vehicles in large numbers,'' said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents the major automakers.

But the Transportation Department said an analysis by NHTSA shows that the automakers will be able to achieve the new standard with current technology and by not having to make vehicles smaller or less safe.

Most environmentalists said the new requirements do little the automakers haven't already said they would do.

''It's a minuscule number compared to what's needed and what's technically achievable,'' said Daniel Becker, a fuel economy expert at the Sierra Club.

Overall passenger fuel economy has retreated in recent years, largely because of the growing popularity of SUVs, minivans and pickups subject to less stringent fuel economy requirements. That has led to a growing demand for fuel efficiency increases among SUVs.

The Senate this year debated stiff increases in mileage requirements. A proposal offered by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., would have required overall vehicle fuel economy to rise to 35 mpg by 2015, but it was defeated.

Automakers contended such an increase would force them to sell nothing but small cars and SUVs, and require the shutting down of some manufacturing plants. The administration strongly opposed the Kerry-McCain proposal.

The industry has made pledges to improve fuel economy, including the introduction of more hybrid gas-electric vehicles and government-supported work on fuel cell vehicles to replace the internal combustion engine.

Ford announced two years ago that it would raise the fuel economy of its SUV fleet 25 percent by the 2005 model year, from 18 mpg to 23 mpg. GM responded by pledging to keep the fuel economy of its light truck fleet better than Ford's.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a fuel economy advocacy group, estimated Ford's pledge would translate into about a 1.8 mpg increase if applied to all vehicles in the ''light truck'' category.

The new government standard amounts to ''no more than what the industry has already committed to. In fact, it's less and they are asking for it two years later,'' said David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Under the rule, each automaker would have to achieve a 21 mpg fleet average for SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks by the 2005 model year; 21.6 mpg for 2006 models; and 22.2 mpg for 2007 models.

AP-NY-12-12-02 1922EST

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
 

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Does anyone know where the current MDX falls versus the full 2007 22.2 mpg fleet average for "trucks"?

I don't think you can tell just by looking at the EPA numbers on the sticker (17 city, 23 hwy). There's some calculation involved, and if I remember right it is based on the old method EPA used to report highway mileage which tended to be inflated vs. reality. So I suspect that the MDX might already be at or over this average.

But everything with the "SUV" label is currently considered a gas hog by the news media, as well as "deadly" due to roll overs. (Just like the media can hardly mention the word "radiation" without the word "deadly" before it.)
 

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I think I can go part of the way towards answering my own question.

From the "raw" city mileage obtained, EPA requires that it be multipled by .90. For highway mileage, the factor is .78. These factors were instituted because it was decided that the raw numbers were unrealistic versus real-world. The resulting numbers after multiplying are rounded to the nearest 1 mpg.

Therefore the original city number for the MDX would have been somewhere around 19 mpg. The highway number would have been around 29. (The unrealistic nature of the highway EPA test in particular becomes obvious here. If the sticker said 29 mpg highway on the MDX, people would tend to be disappointed with their real-world mpg of in the 22-24 range).

So, I believe that the CAFE mpg number is some combination of the 19 city, 29 highway numbers applicable to the MDX. (Plus or minus due to rounding errors). I haven't found what combination of these numbers EPA uses to calculate CAFE. If it's 50% of each number, then the CAFE number for the MDX would be around 24, easily meeting the 2007 average.
 

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If acura could keep MDX in the same or better specs and increase fuel milage 1.5mpg by 2005, maybe I will think hard to replace it with NEW one. :rolleyes:
 
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