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US vehicle fleet sets new record for fuel efficiency in 2018: EPA

Washington

THE US vehicle fleet hit a record for fuel efficiency in 2018 averaging 10.7 kilometres per litre (kpl) in real-world driving as it rose 0.09 kpl, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said. The fleet is also preliminarily anticipated to jump to 10.8 kpl for the 2019 model year.

The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are working to finalise rules to rollback Obama-era requirements through the 2026 model year. Officials hope to finalise the new rules by April 1 but are still working to address remaining issues.

The report also showed that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV purchased a significant number of vehicle emissions credits, while Tesla Inc, Honda Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp sold credits. Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG and BMW AG also bought credits. Among the 13 largest carmakers, only VW and Hyundai Motor Co saw average fuel economy fall in 2018, as they sold more SUVs and fewer cars.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said carmakers were far short of the 0.4 kpl improvement they were supposed to meet in 2018. "The rules should be strengthened to cut pollution and save consumers money at the pump," Mr Becker said.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler cited the small annual increases as evidence that the Obama era requirements are "unfeasible". A group representing nearly all major carmakers said the report "demonstrates the market challenges that exist" and noted that most carmakers needed to rely on credits to comply with 2018 requirements.

The Trump administration proposed in August 2018 to freeze fuel efficiency standards at 2020 levels through 2026, erasing the increases enacted in 2012.

The draft proposal would boost the stringency of US vehicle emission standards by 1.5 per cent annually from the 2021 through 2026 model years, Senator Tom Carper said in January.

Senator Carper said the draft would result in a 17.2 kpl fleet average by 2030. The administration's 2018 proposal would have resulted in an average fuel efficiency of 13.7 kpl by 2026, compared with 19.9 kpl under the Obama rules.

The administration argues that the rollbacks are necessary for economic and safety reasons, but California and environmentalists reject that, saying that consumers would spend hundreds of billions more in fuel costs.

An EPA science advisory board analysis released on Monday found "significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis of the proposed" rollback, adding that it leads to "implausible results regarding the overall size of the vehicle fleet" by predicting that hiking prices will cause the vehicle fleet to "grow substantially when it would usually be expected to shrink". The EPA said that when finalised the "analysis backing the final rule-making will be publicly available" and the administration will respond to all comments. REUTERS