In response to the global oil crisis in the 1970s, most OECD countries imposed regulations on vehicle fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions as a means of reducing their national demand for oil. Since then, there has been a steady increase in minimum fleetwide standards across all major markets.
These regulations have proven to be effective, with global average fuel efficiency rising from 18 MPG (Imperial) in 1980 to almost 35 MPG today. However, the adoption of these standards remains patchy and fragmented across the globe.
There are over 20 different standards set by various governments, NGOs, and manufacturers which can be either mutually-exclusive or partially-overlapping depending on their scope and application. As a result, it is important for consumers to understand their options when buying a new car so they can make an informed decision about its suitability for their needs and circumstances.
What is an efficiency or eco-standard?
Standards are typically imposed on vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and emissions to meet certain criteria. The most common standards include: Eco-labels – which use a grading system to indicate the environmental impact of a product based on a set of criteria. Eco-standards – which set a specific standard for a product based on a set of criteria. Eco-marks – which set a specific standard for a product based on a set of criteria. Eco-labels and eco-marks are often voluntary and non-binding while eco-standards typically have legal force.
Fuel efficiency standards explained
Fuel efficiency standards set a specific MPG or CO2 target for all new vehicles. They are generally imposed on manufacturers and importers who must ensure that every new vehicle sold meets these standards. This ensures that all vehicles on the road meet a minimum standard, making it easier for consumers to compare different vehicles and choose a vehicle that is right for them. – MPG standards: MPG standards are the most common type of fuel efficiency standard, and are used in most major markets.
They set a minimum MPG and CO2 emissions target for each vehicle based on its weight and engine size. For example, a vehicle with a 4-cylinder engine weighing 3500 lbs would have a MPG standard of 31 MPG. – CO2 standards: CO2 standards are similar to MPG standards but are imposed on an average fleetwide emission rather than a specific MPG target per vehicle. They are typically set on a CO2-g/km basis, meaning that manufacturers must ensure that all vehicles on the road average less than a certain level of CO2 emissions.
Environmental regulations: What you should know
Air quality and fuel economy-based standards:
Air quality is a major concern for many cities, especially in Asia. As a result, many countries have adopted air quality-based standards that mandate the minimum fuel efficiency a vehicle must have in order to be sold.
China has recently been taking a global lead on this front, imposing a strict new CO2 emissions standard for all cars manufactured in the country from 2019. – CO2 emissions standards: CO2 emissions standards are the most common environmental standard imposed on vehicles.
Most major markets have adopted some form of CO2 emissions standard, which typically sets a fleetwide average level of CO2 emissions either per vehicle type or per manufacturer. For example, the EU imposes a fleetwide average CO2 emissions standard of 95 g/km, meaning that manufacturers must ensure that the average of their entire model range is below 95 g/km. – GHG emissions standards: Another important environmental standard is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the most common GHG standards is the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but other types of GHG emissions are also commonly regulated. The EU has a CO2 emissions standard set at 95 g/km, as well as a GHG emissions standard of 95 g/km CO2 equivalent (CO2eq).
CAFE Standards: An American spin on fuel efficiency.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards:
CAFE standards are unique to the United States, and are the only fuel efficiency standard in the world that sets a specific MPG target for each manufacturer. Each manufacturer’s average MPG rating is then used to determine the average MPG across all manufacturers, which is then used to determine the fuel efficiency of the entire US fleet. – Fuel economy in the US is regulated on a sliding scale, with automakers required to sell a minimum proportion of vehicles that meet a set MPG standard.
The minimum MPG standard then increases over time to account for improving technology and manufacturer ingenuity. As a result, average fuel economy has increased by over 50% since the 70s and 80s when CAFE standards were first imposed.
Fuel efficiency standards are not only good for the environment, they are also good for the economy. They create new jobs in the automotive and manufacturing industries, encourage competition among manufacturers, and lower the cost of vehicles for consumers. We always encourage people to research the fuel efficiency standards for their desired vehicle so that they can make an informed decision about which vehicle is right for them and their lifestyle.