Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Sux

Guest Post By Willis Eschenbach

Bizarrely, and unlike almost every other industrialized country, the US has fuel efficiency standards for cars. Each corporation (Ford, Chevy, etc.) has to meet certain fuel economy standards called the CAFE standards.

Let me start by saying that I think that this is governmental over-reach. In virtually every other part of life we let the market decide the required efficiency. We don’t have required efficiencies for gas-fired power plants. More efficient plants occur as a result of the market. We also don’t have required efficiencies for cell phones. If they burn through the batteries, they don’t sell. The market has always handled efficiency quite … well … efficiently.

So I object to ANY automotive fuel standards as both totally un-necessary, and worse, market distorting.

Here’s one important way it distorts the market. “Fuel Economy” is measured in a very curious way. Work efficiencies are usually measured per pound or per kilogram moved. Efficiency would relate to how much energy it takes to move say a hundred kilograms a distance of 10 metres horizontally. If you can move the same weight at the same speed using less energy, you have a more efficient setup.

But that’s not how the CAFE standards work. They’re measured in miles per gallon (or kilometres per liter, with 1 mpg ≈ .4 km/l), with no consideration of how much weight is being moved. This means that if you put the same identical engine in both a heavier car and a lighter car that are otherwise identical, they get assigned different “economy” numbers. But in fact, the efficiency of the engine, the drive train, the rolling resistance, and the aerodynamics is the same in both cases.

Now, this may or may not be the right way to measure fuel “economy”, but it has an odd side-effect. Here’s why. There are a variety of ways to increase the true efficiency of a vehicle. You can increase the efficiency of the engine. You can reduce the rolling resistance of the tires. You can improve the aerodynamic qualities of the vehicle. All of these increase the true efficiency, in that it takes less energy to move the same amount of weight the same distance at the same speed.

But under the CAFE rules, if you merely make your car lighter, you can claim it’s more “economical”. They’ve done a clever switch of “economy” for “efficiency” … bad bureaucrats, no cookies.

Now, making car bodies lighter is generally cheaper than making car engines and drive trains more efficient. So as a result, most of the gains in meeting the CAFE standards have come from making vehicles lighter.

Unfortunately, there is an ugly truth about cars. Less car weight in crashes means more injury and more deaths. Here’s the cold equation—the less steel that gets bent in a crash, the more flesh and bone that gets bent in a crash. The National Academy of Sciences wrote about this as far back as 2002. They said the CAFE standards were killing about 2,000 people per year.

So we have totally distorted the auto marketplace into trading human blood and misery for fuel economy … not a good plan on my planet.

I got to thinking about this again because the President is proposing a re-examination of Comrade Obama’s insane attempt to increase fuel efficiency by imperial fiat. Before he left office, then-President Obama put in new CAFE standards mandating a ludicrous corporate average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon (23 km/l) !!!. I cracked up laughing when he first made his Royal And Really Important Official Proclamation Regarding Economy. That charming fellow truly thought that he could just pick a number no matter how high, and magically the cars would get that much more efficient.

President Obama obviously didn’t understand that the one reliable rule about increasing efficiency is that every percent gained comes harder and costs more than the previous percent gained. The first ten percent gained is easy, the next ten percent is harder, and after a while it takes piles of money and effort to gain even one more percentage point.

Case in point? The CAFE standards. Care to guess how much the US nationwide light vehicle fuel “economy” has increased over the last quarter century?

An increase of a whopping two miles per gallon. Less than half a kilometer per liter.

Truly. All that grief, all that money wasted, for a sorry two pathetic miles per gallon increase. Here’s the data:

Be still my beating heart, the excitement of the real-world economy increase is getting to me …

You can see how well the CAFE standards actually work. From 1990 to 2014, almost a quarter century, the CAFE standards were well above the actual efficiency. During that time the efficiency should have been rising … but they didn’t budge one bit. Well, that’s not quite true … the MPG inched upwards. But then, given the general increase in all machinery over time, we’d expect that even if CAFE standards did not exist.

Me, I support the Gordian Knot solution to this lunacy—get rid of the fershlugginer CAFE standards completely, root and branch. Those standards are the reason that Volkswagon had to cheat on their pollution controls. Like other manufacturers, they could make a relatively clean-air car, or they could make a high “fuel economy” car … but not both.

And this is the ultimate irony. The CAFE standards were supposed to reduce pollution, but they couldn’t even do that. Instead they drove manufacturers to make the air dirtier just so they could meet the CAFE requirements.

Other countries were smart enough to never create such cockamamie standards in the first place. But having made the foolish mistake, at least we should correct it as soon as possible.

My best to everyone, you’re all invited to come over to my blog and see what the latest madness might be …


PLEASE: When you comment, QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS THAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO, so that we can all understand what you are talking about.

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March 19, 2017 5:01 pm

No more café standards? WooHoo… Let’s Roll Coal!!!

Reply to  SMC
March 20, 2017 6:29 am

If you really want to roll coal, buy an electric car.

We still import oil. We export coal. If you want American fuel in your American car, Ford and Chevy both have a decent range of plug in hybrid and full electric cars. And Chrysler is about to start selling a plug in hybrid minivan that will go 30 miles on domestic energy before switching to imported oil.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  SMC
March 20, 2017 8:18 am

You’d never be able to meet the emission exhaust standards, much less the fuel sulfur standards, with a mobile source of that size. You just don’t have the functions to handle the particulate soot. We aren’t talking about removing any of the actual pollution controls, just the arbitrary efficiency standards that are impossible to meet.

As an aside, I find the auto-correct on your post quite amusing. No restrictions on cafés. Your overpriced coffee doesn’t need to have any actual beans at all!

Reply to  Ben of Houston
March 20, 2017 3:58 pm

Yeah, I didn’t catch the auto correct thing before I hit ‘Post Comment’. Forgot to put a 🙂 at the end of the sentence too. Oh well.

As just an FYI, my personal car is an ’06 Honda Civic Hybrid… Has >300k miles on it. It paid for itself.

george e. smith
Reply to  SMC
March 20, 2017 9:17 am

The way to improve REAL fuel economy, is to simply pull out every second traffic light inside city limits. Eliminate four way stop signs. The only thing they do is ensure that the next crash will be from a standing start.
City traffic light don’t have the brains of a two year old child.

Remember these are programmed by the same geniuses who gave us Microsoft Windows. They may be coding brainiacs; I don’t doubt that.. But what good is efficient code if it encodes a totally lousy solution to a simple problem.

When three months has gone by, then you can pull out half of the remaining traffic lights.

It would help if you actually gave drivers a driving test, BEFORE you hand them a drivers licence. I mean a test that tests if they are actually able to drive a car, and make good decisions.

Watch the cars making a left turn on a green arrow. They start moving, and once they have definite proof that the car is moving, it is time to apply the brakes, to make sure the car doesn’t accelerate as they make a ninety degree left turn.

Well news for them; just changing direction IS acceleration. What they need to do is increase speed at the same time.

Modern cars, are NOT like a Dodge Charger or Dart. They do NOT rollover when cornering at speeds higher than five miles per hour.

The Detroiosaurus Maximus came into being when there were NO CAFE standards. The idea was o build a rubber tired tank for civilians.
Its the same theory as suiting up football players in a suit of armor with shoulder pads, and hard helmets to crush the knees of the opponent players.

I’ve watched a LOT of Aussie rules football. They wear next to no clothing at all, and I don’t recall the last time I saw anyone get significantly hurt; and those guys never stop when somebody drops the ball. About the only way to stop play in Aussie rules, is to cold cock the referee.
That’s an infraction that will cause play to stop, while you apologize to the ref.

But back to CAFE standards.

I’ve always believed that the way to protect drivers from being injured in a crash; is to simply avoid the crash in the first place.

The Europeans did that by perfecting the ” Sports Car ” which was designed to go around corners, either left or right turns, and to stay on the road, instead of shooting off the corners in a skid.

And they used road racing courses for their engineering laboratories. Americans still seem to think that the Ford Thunderbird is a sports car; so is the Mustang. The Chevy Corvette probably is.

Sheer speed and acceleration may be what some people like; that’s ok with me.

I actually watched some top fuel, and funny car races over the weekend (on T&V). Yes it’s a blast for three or four seconds. And then of course there is NASCAR. It is very pretty to watch them lining up two abreast for a restart after a spectacular crash.

Sometimes, they actually cross the finish line like that with the predetermined winner out in front. ( NO ! Predetermined by the incidental leader before the yellow flag; never would say it’s fixed.)

I’m all for getting the Government out of the regulating business. I’d be happy if they did the seventeen or 18 things that the US Constitution tells them they can do (The Congress)

I’m all for eliminating EVERY regulation writing agency, and having the US Congress write ALL of the laws themselves; that’s why they were elected, and NOT some unelected bureaucrats.

I’m quite happy that my 2 litre Subaru Impreza gets me 50 MPG at city speeds (in between mandated stops ).

They don’t guarantee that, and I’m taking their instantaneous MPG instrument’s word for that.


March 19, 2017 5:02 pm

This passage is applicable to a wide range of expenditure…

President Obama obviously didn’t understand that the one reliable rule about increasing efficiency is that every percent gained comes harder and costs more than the previous percent gained. The first ten percent gained is easy, the next ten percent is harder, and after a while it takes piles of money and effort to gain even one more percentage point.

From pollution abatement to signal-to-noise ratio, it takes a geometric increase in $ spent to yield a linear improvement.

The Law of Diminishing Returns is tough to beat…

Roger Knights
Reply to  David Middleton
March 19, 2017 7:31 pm

Some clueless Democracy congressman, Harry Reid or Markey IIRC, said (in effect) in answer to an interviewer’s statement that auto manufacturers were claiming the new standards were unachievable, “they managed to improve their MPG by 25% [or whatever] in the past ten years, so they can do so again.” He had no concept that the initial gains were low-hanginging fruit, and that the next gains would come harder.

Reply to  Roger Knights
March 19, 2017 8:14 pm

I think Ed Markey was the fracking moron who said that industry would have to deliver whatever they legislated, regarding cap & tax.

Reply to  Roger Knights
March 20, 2017 7:53 am

The EPA mandates that refiners use a product that doesn’t exist, and fines them for their failure to follow the rules.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 20, 2017 7:52 am

This fact also relates to much of the nonsense being pushed by the EPA.

michael hart
Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 12:55 pm

It applies to most proponents of unreasonable environmental legislation, because so many of them never pursued careers and qualifications that involved real science or engineering. There are people who like to make rules, and then there are people who have to obey rules. A bit like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 20, 2017 9:32 am

The former prez said that “we” made cars more fuel efficient. “We” did not do squat. He has exactly zero knowledge on how to increase mileage. He just signed the requirement. Now if he only could have repealed those pesky Laws of Physics…..

Reply to  oeman50
March 20, 2017 9:41 am

One young fan of electric cars declared to me that all we need to develop better batteries is for government to pass a law requiring battery makers to do so.

Reply to  oeman50
March 20, 2017 11:54 am

Heh, I suspect said young fan of electric cars isn’t aware that petrol and electric cars competed in the marketplace for quite a few years. Petrol ICEs did better because the market found ways to produce them more efficiently (in economics, that is, cheaper to own and operate). I also suspect said young fan has no idea that the laws of physics and chemistry are hard limits. Batteries need mass and the outputs are determined by electrochemical redox (oxidation-reduction) reactions. Liquid fuel ICEs have a power/weight requirement (so do others, but you’re not going to find much better fuels than mid-length hydrocarbons for this purpose).

Thomas Graney
March 19, 2017 5:07 pm

I have my fingers crossed on this one. Thanks Willis.

NW sage
Reply to  Thomas Graney
March 20, 2017 5:27 pm

Yes, Thanks Willis. One additional point I did not see mentioned was the fact that, in order to meet the CAFE averages the manufacturers have to sell a LOT of light, efficient cars to make up for the large, heavy vehicles which are in demand. This means making them cheaply – and that means using manufacturing in coumtries where labor costs are low. Thus many producers built plants in Mexico. The inevitable result was/is a lot of unemployed US car workers and the political unrest which followed.

Javert Chip
March 19, 2017 5:12 pm

CA, as it thinks it is in most regulatory things, is way ahead of us on this: in 1990, CA mandated that 10% of cars be zero emission by 2003. Didn’t happen.

Here we are 14 years later (than 2003), and the current “counting” fudge is about 2M cars (out of 28M on CA roads) are “partial zero and advanced – PZEV, and technology partial zero emission vehicles AT PZEV”. Still hasn’t happened.

Kaiser Derden
Reply to  Javert Chip
March 19, 2017 5:24 pm

yes but it allows California to blackmail most car manufacturers and pay a good portion of that blackmail money to Tesla … (keeping them in business)

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 19, 2017 6:07 pm

Talk about businesses leaving California, this seems interesting:

Reply to  Javert Chip
March 19, 2017 9:30 pm

Demands to make manufacturers AVERAGE mpg (across the range) figures more ‘efficient’ have led to the likes of Aston Martin to develop their own versions of LEV’s resulting in ridiculous propositions as the ‘Cygnet’ city car…. that no one wants.

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Dave_G
March 20, 2017 4:56 am

Dave, Aston Martin’s plant is near my home in the UK. They bought the rights to the Toyota Aygo and redeveloped and re-badged it into a 30k GBP luxury mini. This was to allow them to get a corporate ave fuel efficiency. I quite often see these cars on road test around my area. I must say they look the part even though I can understand the cynical reasoning behind their build.

March 19, 2017 5:12 pm

The title of the post reminds me of this:

March 19, 2017 5:50 pm

Wasn’t the pollution the new CAFE standards were supposed to reduce CO2, or as they put it cahbahn pollution? If I recall correctly, the new and improved CAFE standards were supposed to reduce global temperatures something like 0.07C by 2100. That’s a truly admirable and measurable reduction.

Reply to  Bob Greene
March 20, 2017 8:26 am

I can’t tell if you are bieng sarcastic, so I’ll answer you straight.
If they worked. There isn’t a gasoline car on the market that can get 54 mpg honestly. The only way to do that is to use electric cars or hybrids with astronomical efficiency ratings caused by ludicrous optimism about the amount of time they run on battery.

Reply to  benofhouston
March 20, 2017 9:43 am

I break 50mpg from time to time. Of course I drive a Fiat 500 with a manual transmission. I’ve also learned every place that I can coast on my commute.

Reply to  benofhouston
March 20, 2017 4:59 pm

Ben, the big claim for the CAFE standard was carbon (CO2?) reduction and reduction of global warming. Then they claimed a ridiculously low, immeasurable number for the temperature reduction.

Reply to  benofhouston
March 21, 2017 8:03 pm

It doesn’t matter how they justified it. The reality isn’t lining up with their dreams.

And there’s a big difference between being able to sometimes get 50 mpg and being able to exceed it consistently. If I turned off the A/C, I could get 42 in my Honda, but that’s a little problematic in my city.

March 19, 2017 5:58 pm

Miles per gallon is a misleading way to measure fuel economy, besides as Willis points out it doesn’t say much about fuel efficiency. Look at it this way- not too many years ago lots of people were driving cars that got 10 mpg. 10 gallons to go 100 miles. The early econo boxes got 25mpg or so. 4 gallons to go 100 miles. Last year many of the econo boxes got 33mpg. 3 gallons for 100 miles(well, 99 actually). The famed Prius got 42mpg,. ~2.5 gallons/100mi. The 2017 new model gets 52mpg, 1.9 gallons/100 miles. Gallons per 100 miles makes a lot more sense.

Electric cars, courtesy of the EPA, show ridiculous numbers in the 100mpg range. What the EPA doesn’t tell you is that figure is merely a direct conversion of the energy in gasoline into electricity with no allowance for power plant efficiency(55% at best) or the transmission/charging/discharging losses of 15-20%. Overall, the joules to joules comparison of gas to electric is about 44mpg, about the same as the Prius and only slightly better than other pretty good hybrids.

The ridiculous 54.5 number is the Corporate fleet average. That means the only private vehicles available will effectively be sub compact and compact cars. There is no way the auto companies will be able to generate enough sales of highly profitable larger cars, trucks, and vans to make any money. Currently they account for about 60% of sales. That will have to drop to 10 percent or so, driving up the cost of cars proportionately.

Mass transit, which doesn’t actually transport people more efficiently, only works in crowded cities. With any distance to travel, and counting off shift travel, mass transit is no more efficient than cars because the buses and trains have to run many times with only a few passengers in the off peak hours. Plus in any industrial area they have to run 24 hours a day, further decreasing efficiency.

Stewart Pid
Reply to  philohippous
March 19, 2017 7:36 pm

RE mass transit. I always define mass transit it as going from where you aren’t to where you don’t want to go, when you don’t want to go.
I admit sometimes it works well.

Reply to  Stewart Pid
March 21, 2017 9:22 am

And forget about picking up a little lumber and hardware (and maybe thise new tools that will be just right) on the way home from work for that little furniture or home lab bench or gardening project…

Reply to  philohippous
March 19, 2017 7:36 pm

Mass transit only works well in New York City, and that was in a large part because it was built back when the government regulations didn’t make everything cost ten times more. Here in greater Orlando, they build the “Sunrail,” a not very fast commuter train that only services a linear path. If you want to go somewhere on the East side of the area, like the university, you’re out of luck.

And the cost! Not only do the ticket prices not pay for the construction or even routine maintenance, they don’t even pay for the cost of selling the tickets.

Reply to  scarletmacaw
March 19, 2017 10:34 pm

Right no passenger rail system works without some government handouts. A few freight lines such as the iron rail lines in the Kimberlies of Western Australia are economic – they are now driverless. The sub-ways in London, Paris and Tokyo are useful but are subsidised.

Reply to  scarletmacaw
March 20, 2017 12:54 am

and London, Paris, Moscow, Berlin etc.

Reply to  scarletmacaw
March 20, 2017 1:53 am

To be fair, road building and maintenance is also fully subsidised out of the public purse.

Brook HURD
Reply to  scarletmacaw
March 20, 2017 5:44 am

Don’t forget the most expensive rail system ($/unit length of rail) on earth, the Washington DC area Metro.

John Hardy
Reply to  philohippous
March 20, 2017 2:32 am

Fairs fair Philohippus: if you are including electricity generation costs for EVs, you should include the cost of extractiong and refining petrol/gasoline. I have a car that runs on both and it will go 14 miles on the electricity used to extract, refine and distribute enough petrol to drive 17 miles

Reply to  John Hardy
March 20, 2017 7:16 am

Philoh… is correct, the EPA comparison is not accurate and was probably concocted to deceive the masses into thinking how efficient electric cars are. It is not good economics or honest government to only look at one stage of a process and not consider the entire efficiency from the beginning to the end. He was talking about efficiency not cost and there is a lot of energy lost in the power plants, distribution, etc. more so than refining crude oil. If one did look at cost which might be a good idea first one must look at the significant taxes paid for gasoline which supposedly pays for roads, bridges and mass transportation not paid by electric cars.

Reply to  John Hardy
March 20, 2017 7:57 am

fair’s fair, if you want to include the cost of extracting and refining oil to gasoline, you need to include the cost of extracting and transporting the coal to the power plants as well.

John Hardy
Reply to  John Hardy
March 20, 2017 1:53 pm

“…extracting and transporting the coal to the power plants ….” accepted. I think my point though is that you can make any point you like by cherry picking where you draw the line.

Reply to  John Hardy
March 21, 2017 11:27 am

A fair and honest analysis should not arbitrarily “draw a line” it needs to consider the entire process from beginning to the end. That’s good Engineering. The government draws a line at a point that makes no sense whatsoever to deceive those who are not sufficiently informed to realize the fraud. They get away with it because we have a complicit MSM.

Hoyt Clagwell
March 19, 2017 5:58 pm

Ironically, the same government overreach that calls for more miles per gallon, also mandates that the gasoline have 10% ethanol in it which arguably gets you slightly fewer miles per gallon.

David E. Smith
Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
March 19, 2017 7:48 pm

Unless your (MN) state legislature brilliantly mandates an idiotic 15% ethanol blend!

Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
March 20, 2017 5:14 am

Interestingly if the ethanol is used to increase the average octane rating, you could get more mileage out of fuel with ethanol, in a car that supports a high compression engine. However, the oil companies tend to use lower quality base stock and mix it with the ethanol to still get the 87 octane rating. Another problem is high compression engine parts tend to cost more, negating the benefit of any efficiency gains.

Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 7:58 am

When Detroit first started to produce large numbers of diesel engines, they tried to do it on the cheap by taking a gasoline engine and increasing the compression. Needless to say, they started having a lot of problems with these engines after a couple of years on the road.

Patrick W
Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 9:31 am

I’m my experience and research, ethanol not only lower fuel efficiency, but also increases emissions. Ethanol is also corrosive to most vehicle fuel systems. It is the epitome of insanity for the government to mandate higher fuel standards while also allowing ethanol to be added to the fuel supply. The use of corn in ethanol production also raises food prices. Typical government program.

george e. smith
Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 9:35 am

High compression engines burn the air as well as the fuel to make NOX.

That nitrogen did not come out of your fuel tank it came right in the front through your radiator.


Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 4:28 pm

MarkW March 20, 2017 at 7:58 am
When Detroit first started to produce large numbers of diesel engines, they tried to do it on the cheap by taking a gasoline engine and increasing the compression. Needless to say, they started having a lot of problems with these engines after a couple of years on the road.

Yeah the Odlsmobile diesel single handedly destroyed diesels in the US, built on the cheap they basically used all the same parts as the gasoline engines, in particular the pistons and con-rods. With the higher compression ratio they were rapidly trashed. Instrumental in letting the foreign manufacturers into the US market because the reputation of Detroit was badly hit.

Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 4:46 pm

The LF9 (350 cu in) Olds diesel was not done “on the cheap.” The beefy block was highly sought after for use in racing applications (w/gasoline conversion), especially after the typical American destroyed the engine due to his/her lack of experience in the care and feeding of a diesel vehicle. The initial failure of this engine was not due to the engine itself, but from the poor quality of diesel fuel (i.e. water & particles) that was used in it when it hit the market. I had a Olds Delta 88 with one, and it went well over 350,000 miles with only needing an injector replacement.

Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 7:46 pm

David Dirkse March 20, 2017 at 4:46 pm
The LF9 (350 cu in) Olds diesel was not done “on the cheap.” The beefy block was highly sought after for use in racing applications (w/gasoline conversion),

But not for a diesel, too few head bolts for example which stretched and caused head gasket failure etc.
Followed by bent con rods…….

March 19, 2017 6:02 pm

In your research for this post, did you happen to come across this report from NAS regarding the effect that CAFE has had on fuel economy? I did not read it but the Wikipedia page on CAFE says they (NAS) are claiming that CAFE had the effect of reducing fuel consumption by 14%…I’d say that’s not very much…and more or less supports your claim…if the report is valid.

I don’t have the time to read this study linked below but I’d be curious about how they came to that conclusion of 14%…if anyone else cares to read it and report back.

March 19, 2017 6:02 pm

Whom the gods would destroy, they would first make insane.

The gods must have really had it with us.

March 19, 2017 6:03 pm

Aren’t the miles-per-gallon claims invariably wrapped with baffle-gab anyway? Like highway mileage vs. stop and go city driving; your car has to be in perfect tune; your tires must be new and properly inflated, etc. As well, the general atmospheric conditions in which you are driving has an impact. Driving in warm weather vs. cold weather; starting your car in freezing temperatures will swallow extra gas; running the A/C on a long drive at the height of summer heat will use more gas. I could go on, and I’m no mechanic, but you get the idea. It’s possible your real-world MPG will be worse than the “official” MPG simply because you aren’t driving in ideal conditions all the time.

Reply to  PaulH
March 20, 2017 8:00 am

I’ve always felt that to be fair, the tests should also include everything that draws electrical power in the car turned on. Radio, fan, head lights, etc.

george e. smith
Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 9:38 am

The tests also do not include stop signs and traffic lights, which government installs to force you to drive their way.


Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 9:45 am

The town that I live in has been replacing stop signs and lights with round a bouts. On a good day I don’t have to stop even once in my commute.

Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 4:30 pm

george e. smith March 20, 2017 at 9:38 am
The tests also do not include stop signs and traffic lights, which government installs to force you to drive their way.

That’s where regenerative braking in hybrids works well.

george e. smith
Reply to  MarkW
March 21, 2017 3:08 pm


Are you suggesting that we should put in more compulsory stops to maximize the benefits of regenerative braking.

The kinetic energy of a car with the drive train disconnected is best used for travelling further down the road, rather than charging batteries.


March 19, 2017 6:03 pm

We (the US of A) can produce as much fuel as we can use for a log time.
What’s it to the Federal government to MANDATE how many mpg my vehicle gets?
The only way the Obama CAFE standard could be met were if every one drove golf carts.

Reply to  Matthew W
March 20, 2017 8:01 am

One thing I’ve noticed over the years. When gas prices are high, auto ads push gas mileage.
When gas prices are low, auto ads push luxury and power.

Scott Scarborough
March 19, 2017 6:07 pm

No. It’s not easier to make a car lighter than it is to make the engine more efficient or make the roiling resistance lower or the wind drag lower. They are all equally difficult and expensive at this point. And car weight isn’t the only thing that is balanced against occupant safety. There is a balance between rolling resistance and handling also.

george e. smith
Reply to  Scott Scarborough
March 20, 2017 9:40 am

How does rolling resistance affect handling ??


Reply to  george e. smith
March 20, 2017 9:46 am

Tires with less rolling resistance tend to be harder, which means there is less surface area touching the road, which results in less traction.

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
March 21, 2017 3:19 pm

Well you can calculate the amount of tire surface touching the road, by dividing the car weight by the tire pressure. That will give you the total contact surface area for infinitely flexible tires.
For less flexible tires, the contact area will be smaller than that.

The tires are not slipping on the road surface. The tire velocity is zero at the road surface, and twice the car speed at the top of the tire. The transmission losses and wind resistance are what gives rolling resistance.


March 19, 2017 6:10 pm

Actually, cars have been getting heavier, not lighter, due to another government mandate, safety.

Where my 2000 Kia Sephia had two air bags, my 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer has 17 air bags, active stability control with traction control, tire pressure monitor & many more required safety features.

To compare like to like, my 2000 Sephia to Kia’s replacement, 2016 Forte, the Sephia was 2550 lbs curb weight, where the Forte weighs 2885 lbs.

Reply to  Jeff
March 19, 2017 6:38 pm

The government doesn’t mandate 17 airbags. That is car company overkill.

Owen in GA
Reply to  lorcanbonda
March 20, 2017 4:18 am

actually I’d call that underkill – if it works to stop death and severe injury in a crash. (ok 17 might be a lot, but it isn’t killing anything – unless it is made by Takata.)

The airbags weren’t a direct mandate, but the result of crash test standards. The Sephia was designed when frontal crash tests were the only standard things were rated on. Front airbags did a decent job of abating that, so the testers went on to other crash scenarios like side impact and offset impact etc. With each new test scenario, engineers went into action to try to beat them, which gave them variations on two main choices – add a lot of steel or add airbags. If they add steel, they blow their CAFE numbers, so airbags it is (with a little bit of steel in door and door support beams.) Thus the Forte gained almost 900 lbs, but has better safety ratings in the areas the Sephia wasn’t designed for.

Reply to  lorcanbonda
March 20, 2017 5:47 am

Unfortunately my car is one of the many with Takata airbags subject to recall. As I understand it from the dealership, the front driver-side airbag is unsafe but the passenger side airbag is OK. So if the airbags are triggered because of, say, a minor but still significant collision, the driver could be injured by the airbag deployment but not the passenger. Yeah, all that extra weight for safety is great.

Reply to  lorcanbonda
March 20, 2017 8:01 am

The other problem with airbags is that they are quite expensive to replace after they’ve been deployed. In a minor collision with relatively light damage to the vehicle, the cost of replacing the deployed airbags will result in the car being written off as a total loss, when the structural and cosmetic damage to the car could otherwise have been repaired.

Reply to  Jeff
March 19, 2017 7:53 pm

Hey! Why don’t they fill all those airbags with CO2 and sequester it like that?

Where’s my consulting fee?

March 19, 2017 6:12 pm

I wonder if Harley Davidson motorcycles have a fleet average of 55 mpg?

Rick C PE
Reply to  Nashville
March 19, 2017 6:48 pm

My Road King gets about 40 mpg, but if the roads are good and I’m really having fun I can get it down to 35 mpg. 😉

Scott Scarborough
March 19, 2017 6:13 pm

People want a safe car. That is one reason that SUVs sell well. They are perceived as being “heavier duty” and safer in a crash. And you sit higher up with a better view of the road. But they don’t get as good fuel economy. People are willing to give that up. But Obama wasn’t.

Reply to  Scott Scarborough
March 20, 2017 8:03 am

Leftists tend to assume that government always knows best.

george e. smith
Reply to  Scott Scarborough
March 20, 2017 9:44 am

And they roll over a lot easier.


March 19, 2017 6:17 pm

I agree with Mr. Eschenbach’s point, but the reader may want to obtain more context by clicking on the link Mr. Eschenbach provided for the data. In particular, one may be forgiven for interpreting them as saying that new passenger cars’ gas mileages have increased substantially and that we may see non-negligible mileage increases as old car cars retire.

Again, I agree that CAFE standards are insane. I just question whether we’re stuck at 22 mpg.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 5:31 am

I remain of the opinion that the reader would be well served to consider at all the data, not just the one row depicted graphically above.

The 1985, 2000, and 2014 mileage values for new passenger cars are 27.6, 28.5, and 36.4, respectively, while those for light trucks are 20.7, 21.3, and 26.3. In other words, new-car gas mileage seems to have accelerated in the past decade.

So I’m not sure that the fleet mileage’s having failed to budge much despite many cars’ retirements over the last twenty-five years tells us as much about what will happen over the next twenty-five as the casual reader might suppose.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 8:04 am

Cash for clunkers

george e. smith
Reply to  Joe Born
March 20, 2017 9:51 am

My car’s long term average MPG since I bought it, is around 29.5 MPG. BUT, it also has a long term average SPEED of 11 MPH.

My car won’t go 11 MPH. In Drive at idle it is set to 15 MPH.

I have to have my brakes on, to go 11 MPH.

Around silicon valley, we have our brakes on a lot.

On the same roads, at posted speeds, sans brake lights; I can get 50 MPG; and that is before I put it into neutral once up to road speed.


March 19, 2017 6:20 pm

Its worae tnan you imagine, WE. Details in ebook Arts of Truth. The official milafe numbers are pure gasoline. The reported are E10. Minus 3.5% milage. Provable officisl obfuscation.

Rab McDowell
March 19, 2017 6:28 pm

Willis, you say “This means that if you put the same identical engine in both a heavier car and a lighter car that are otherwise identical, they get assigned different “economy” numbers. But in fact, the efficiency of the engine, the drive train, the rolling resistance, and the aerodynamics is the same in both cases.”
Not quite right. All else being equal, a heavier car will have a higher rolling resistance. Maybe not much but it will be higher.
Just try adding a few more shovel fulls onto your wheelbarrow to check it out.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 8:05 am

You can only do that if the tires are built to withstand the increased pressure.

george e. smith
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 21, 2017 3:27 pm

Willis, I looked at some truck tires on 18 wheelers at truck stops, and it seems that their tires are typically rated for 125 PSI.
I needed to know the pressure to calculate the loading on the bridge I designed to go across my moat to my house. I had to design a bridge that could carry an H-20 Truck; that’s a ten tired 20 ton truck (two tons per tire). If you had such a truck (it’s fictional) you can’t legally drive it on any road in the USA, including the road leading to my bridge, which will take an A-1 Abrams main battle tank, with another one on top of it.


Reply to  Rab McDowell
March 20, 2017 1:57 am

Actually its more complex than that. The engine doesn’t have ‘an efficiency’ – its a range depending on what it is called upon to do.

The classic example was in the UK back in the 70s the Ford Escort Mk I came with an 1100cc, a 1300cc and a 1600cc engine.

All were pretty thirsty, but the worst was…
…the 1100…

In order to get any performance at all you needed to rev it high.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Rab McDowell
March 20, 2017 10:01 am

There’s another factor to consider. Most American cars can be bought with more than one engine choice. The smaller engines provide better miles/gal. This is not because smaller engines are more efficient (they are actually less efficient than bigger engines). The reason is that the smaller engine needs a wider open throttle to achieve the same driving test. Therefore, the pumping losses across a partially closed throttle plate lower the efficiency *at that given EPA driving test*. If you look at the map of brake specific fuel consumption, you will see that the smaller engine is operating in a more efficient region on that plot. For the nerds out there: pumping losses are Vdot deltaP where Vdot is m^3/sec and deltaP is Pascals, and power is J/sec or Watts.

george e. smith
Reply to  Rab McDowell
March 20, 2017 10:13 am

Not necessarily. Assuming the heavier car is the same body shape etc. as the lighter one, the heavier one will roll much further than the lighter one, when you put it in neutral.

“Rolling” resistance is largely a function of aerodynamics, bearing friction, and transmission efficiency.

The tires are just sitting on the road, and the tires are sized correctly for the load capacity.
My car effectively accelerates, when I put it in neutral on a flat road. the actual real rolling resistance is quite small.
If I accelerate promptly, but not jack rabbit to posted speed, from a traffic light, then put it in neutral I can easily coast to the next light without slowing down enough for the car behind me to even notice, unless he is riding my bumper; which he usually is.

I’m always driving in HIS lane. No matter what lane I’m in, it is HIS lane. And when he finally moves over to the right and passes me on the right, he will pull front of me, without signaling, and then slam on his brakes, because the guy in front of me is going the same speed I am. That will cause me to do an all anchors overboard panic stop, to ensure that I don’t crash into him, since he just cut my safety following margin by at least a factor of three.
So I hope the guy that replaced him riding my tail understands that, or else he is going to crash into my tail.

I don’t mind that; I will then become the new owner of his house.

But that is better than the right side passer, becoming the new owner of MY house.


March 19, 2017 6:37 pm

FWIW — I think that higher CAFE standards have been a net positive for our country. Yes, higher CAFE means less safe cars, but we’ve also taken steps to improve our cars significantly over the past few decades. The net is much safer cars than we had. At the same time, the reason for CAFE standards was the reduction of our dependence on foreign fuels. This has been very successful.

The downside of CAFE standards has been the rise of foreign automobile sales. Japanese cars were very poorly made (consequently, the were lower weight.) This meant that our CAFE standards had the effect of pushing more sales to Japanese car makers. The funds were used to improve their car quality. This move was already in effect thanks to high gasoline prices and the mistaken perception by US car companies in believing that the transition was to more maneuverable cars rather than lower gas mileage cars.

The most significant downside is that cars are more expensive. That means that those on the lower end of the economic scale have a more difficult time affording the cars that have better gas mileage and therefore can’t afford to cut their fuel costs. This is my greatest concern for aggressive climate change policies.

The point being that there are reasons to exert government policies to drive the marketplace to areas they are not efficient at affecting. Your cell phone example should raise those red flags. After all, Samsung tried to get the most electrical capacity out of their batteries at the lowest cost and wound up with significant safety hazards. Eventually the market will move to safer batteries, but how many fires should we suffer through before this happens?

These headphones caught fire midflight. Do you really believe the free market should address that?

Reply to  lorcanbonda
March 19, 2017 6:56 pm

CAFE has given us more complex and problematic technologies like CVT transmissions and direct-injection engines. What do you think will be the impact on fuel economy of cars being scrapped years earlier as a result? Right now, it’s not even possible to repair the CVT in our car; you can only replace it at $7.5k a time.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 19, 2017 7:01 pm

Not to mention that regulations are one of the main things driving manufacturing to China, which is why so much electronics is now cheap crap that doesn’t meet the most basic safety standards (though it probably says it does on the box).

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 8:07 am

Another point is the belief that government is capable of foreseeing all possible safety problems in advance.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 24, 2017 8:28 am

No, I’m not suggesting CABE standard for cellphone batteries. However, it would benefit us to have better safety standards which are required before devices are sold.

The Samsung (and other battery fires) are due to the quick rush to market for cheap electronic devices. We all want the newest, inexpensive electronics, but I don’t think we should accept shoddy safety standards. It is not worth it. The Samsung fires occurred because they sold more phones than they planned & needed to add battery suppliers quickly. They were also trying to get ~ 40% extra capacity out of the battery than is typically achieved. The batteries were too large to fit in the metal casing and then they were overcharged.

The free market drove these decisions to poor quality — cheap, Chinese battery manufacturers with shoddy safety records and the rush to quick production of electronics. Samsung Note 7 was not the norm — they were better than the norm. Hoverboards or headphones are much worse.

Reply to  lorcanbonda
March 20, 2017 3:52 am

March 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm

“… At the same time, the reason for CAFE standards was the reduction of our dependence on foreign fuels. This has been very successful.”

I don’t think CAFE standards had anything to do with “reduction of our dependence on foreign fuels.”

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Slywolfe
March 20, 2017 5:12 am


I believe lorcanbonda was correct; that is certainly how I remember it being justified at the time. The ever-trustworthy Wikipedia says here:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are regulations in the United States, first enacted by the United States Congress in 1975,[1] after the 1973-74 Arab Oil Embargo, to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks (trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) produced for sale in the United States.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Slywolfe
March 20, 2017 5:15 am

Adendum to above. I was not agreeing with lorcanbonda that the CAFE regulations have actually been effective; just that they were promoted as a way to reduce dependence on imported oil. Now of course they have morphed into a way to save the planet from dangerous warming, in which cause they will be even less effective.

Reply to  Slywolfe
March 20, 2017 8:08 am

That they were promoted as a way of reducing our dependence on foreign fuels is true.
Likewise reductions in CO2 emissions are being promoted as a way to cool the planet.

Reply to  Slywolfe
March 20, 2017 8:29 am

Two big mistakes Jimmy Carter made besides running for president.
Department of Energy and Department of Education.
Hopefully, Trump can reset these terrible money wasting, people destroying, over regulating monsters.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Slywolfe
March 20, 2017 9:48 am

To clarify: CAFE standards were “sold as” a way to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. The fact that we have become less dependent on foreign energy sources, however, has nothing to do with CAFE, and everything to do with the frakking revolution that has massively expanded domestic sources of energy.

Reply to  Slywolfe
March 20, 2017 5:11 pm

AGW is not Science;

Thank you…

Reply to  Slywolfe
March 24, 2017 8:19 am

Jimmy Carter didn’t start the Department of Education — that was Reagan. Under Carter, we had the Department of Health, Education, & Welfare. Reagan divided that into two departments with the intent of dissolving Education. He never did follow through with that.

My only point about the purpose of CAFE standards was to show the reason for the policy and the ultimate result. The CAFE standards alone aren’t responsible, but the policy (which included CAFE standards) was.

March 19, 2017 6:42 pm

People consider many attributes of vehicles and select the vehicle that best meets their needs and desire.

Obama said, “Screw that. Gas mileage is the only attribute that matters.”

Tyranny. Your considerations don’t matter to the government.

March 19, 2017 6:47 pm

Miles Per Gallon is a useless number. Why? Because a vehicle is often used to transport multiple people, and/or stuff. So a van that can transport nine people is different from a truck that can hold two or four people, and can also haul a load of something. Different types of vehicles do different things, because we are all individual in our needs and lifestyles. I’d say, we should do away with “standards” that have no basis in reality. Real cars and trucks do real work, for real people. People should decide what they want, based on their needs, and government should just stay out of it.

James H
Reply to  Janice The American Elder
March 19, 2017 9:20 pm

I agree that MPG is worthless in determining vehicle fuel efficiency. I much prefer load pounds X mpg. My Chevy Malibu can move 800 lbs of load at 30 mpg or 27,000 lb-mpg. Our Freightliner, cattle truck only gets 6 mpg, but hauls 45,000 lb of load, or 270,000 lb-mpg. So the truck is 10x more efficient than my car at moving loads.

george e. smith
Reply to  James H
March 21, 2017 3:32 pm

MPG is worthless except for the particular car YOU drive.
The MPG of anybody else’s car is NO skin off your teeth; only the one you drive.


March 19, 2017 7:08 pm

I turned my diesel powered Golf in to VW on their buy back program last week. The lady who handled the deal said the latest word was the cars were to be “crunched”.

Now every car that is recalled will be replaced with another vehicle that will likely get less MPG the the diesel that is turned in. I replaced my Golf with a VW Passat, so VW isn’t even penalized in my case because they made and sold a car that would not have been made except for the recall.

The metal in the crunched cars will be re-cycled, but that is not pollution free or energy free.

Some one explain how all this makes sense.

Reply to  robert
March 20, 2017 8:10 am

It keeps government bureaucrats employed.

Chuck in Houston
Reply to  robert
March 22, 2017 1:06 pm

My son also turned in a Golf TDI a month or so ago. Got a decent buyback on it. It’s a shame though, the car was a great driver – 6 speed manual, APR chipped. Quick, nice handling, and really fun to drive. What a waste.

March 19, 2017 7:09 pm

Maybe they don’t call it fuel efficiency for a reason. They mean economy.

Traffic Deaths: Haven’t traffic deaths been going down in recent years, at least per million miles traveled.

Your one graph is a little misleading because you plot actual fleet economy not new car economy, which actually is what CAFE can control, and which is actually surpassing CAFE stds.

“And this is the ultimate irony. The CAFE standards were supposed to reduce pollution, but they couldn’t even do that. Instead they drove manufacturers to make the air dirtier just so they could meet the CAFE requirements.”

The air dirtier? Huh? You mean cheat, right. And now consumers aren’t buying as much from the cheater. (Wasn’t there a raid on Audi headquarters last week, in Germany? Wonder how that turns out.)

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  ReallySkeptical
March 19, 2017 7:49 pm

The air dirtier? Huh? You mean cheat, right. And now consumers aren’t buying as much from the cheater. (Wasn’t there a raid on Audi headquarters last week, in Germany? Wonder how that turns out.)

The Attorney already HAS all paperwork and e-mails from VW.

Now there’s rumors about ‘presentations’ of new software.

Since the Attorney already HAS all data, paper + electronic, the outcome is really interesting.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  ReallySkeptical
March 19, 2017 10:45 pm

Link below has numbers and rates, but getting old now.

Many places have more recent news, here is one:

… the NSC estimates that 40,200 Americans were killed in car crashes in 2016. That is a 6% increase in fatal crashes from 2015.

Seems a lot of people talk on phones and text while driving.

Note, that’s 40,000+ per year in the USA.

Snakebites = 4 or 5

About 25,000 deaths are caused by falls from steps, etc.

We should ban steps.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 19, 2017 8:36 pm

I would seem that if the average of all the cars bought last year was above 30 mpg, that in 10 or 15 years the curve might move up, as CAFE was not moved up until the last administration. (Don’t forget that CAFE moved the fleet average from 15 to 20 mpg in the 80s.)

This is from Market Watch for VW:
“In the U.S., new car sales fell nearly 8%, to 322,900 vehicles in 2016.”
I have no idea where you are getting your numbers. They sound more like Telsa sales not VW.

I heard on the radio the day before yesterday that Audi (owned by VW) numbers also fell. It was the news account with the raid I mentioned.

Stan Bennett
March 19, 2017 7:35 pm

Let’s see the Federal Government nearly killed the US car industry with the 55 mph speed limit (the Germans were building cars to go down the road at 200-250 kph, which were of necessity, better engineered. Detroit 120 kph, so the US car was a pile of junk, but cheap, and we are still trying to recover from that perception). No doubt a stupid president and the 54 mpg mileage standard was designed to kill the American car industry! Never has our country experienced a more stupid president! Wander if he could even add and subtract let alone solve a differential equation or understand efficency?

Reply to  Stan Bennett
March 19, 2017 7:44 pm

Don’t forget that they also killed the turbine-engined car, which could run on pretty much anything that burned.

All in all, US automotive regulation has been pretty much a disaster.

Nigel S
Reply to  MarkG
March 20, 2017 3:07 am

Agree with WE in the real world but I still want one of these Jaguars.

In the real world their bearing free jets power mobile phone masts in remote locations.

Reply to  MarkG
March 20, 2017 7:41 am

“Urban legend. ”

Uh, no.

Not in the slightest.

Chrysler were building turbine cars for a decade, and the test drivers loved them. They died because, every time they met the latest emission standard, the EPA went and introduced a new one.

The only claim you made that’s remotely true is that they weren’t as fast as a V8 when accelerating from a stop. But that was trivially easy to work around by revving the turbine with your foot on the brake pedal before you let it move; they were effectively the first cars with ‘launch control’.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  MarkG
March 20, 2017 10:21 am

Willis: Your comments on the turbine engine are correct but incomplete. Turbine engines (Brayton cycle engines more correctly) cost more, far more than Otto or Diesel engines. That is because the hot parts are always hot compared to the Otto intermittently hot. That drives the turbine components to nickel-based alloys. (Stirling engines have the same problem). So higher cost is one factor. Then there’s efficiency: they are only efficient at one operating point, which is why airliners fly at about the same speed and altitude. In order to make the efficiency of automotive turbines comparable to Otto engines, they incorporated heat exchangers to preheat the incoming air and cool the exhaust. That’s more money and complexity. Finally, the net effect of the efficiency being much more dependent on power setting, automotive turbines lost because the power demands were far more extreme than turbines in airplanes.

Reply to  MarkG
March 20, 2017 3:32 pm

So the real solution to the turbine engine is a hybrid setup with the electric motors there to give an emergency bump.

Alternatively, I would think that a turbine could be made to run a constant rpm turning a generator that ran an electric motor to drive the wheels, but the conversion losses would make it pretty inefficient, but the performance would definitely be there. The turbine would have a governor to maintain constant RPMs under any load condition on the generator.

Or most efficiently but most foreign to the current paradigm, the turbine could drive a hydraulic pump and maintain constant pressure at the governed RPM and use hydraulic motors at the wheels to drive the vehicle. I bet that configuration would be simpler and provide more performance than a gas engine. Of course there is still the noise and heat problems to overcome – turbines are dangerously loud!

I wonder if there is a way to use the bleed air to power auxiliary equipment such as climate control systems like we did on fighters. We had an onboard gas turbine generator that provided compressed air to start the main engines and could power the climate control, electrical, and hydraulics systems if the main engine systems went offline.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  MarkG
March 20, 2017 5:45 pm

From reports, there was about a one-and-a-half second lag between stepping on the throttle and getting the power … and when you see someone coming towards you on the highway and you need power to get out of the way, that 1.5 seconds will get you dead.

Why would you step on the gas if someone is coming towards you? Maybe from behind?

george e. smith
Reply to  MarkG
March 21, 2017 3:37 pm

Well Willis, you have to make a turbine hybrid, so the Turbine is always running a its most efficient speed; no spool up needed after you get out of your drive way.

Well who needs an 800 HP round town car anyway ??


Reply to  Stan Bennett
March 19, 2017 8:58 pm

Kill fossil fuel vehicles with impossible to meet CAFEs and force people to buy EVs.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Barbara
March 20, 2017 10:31 am

EVs are still priced about 50% higher than ICE engine cars. The Chevy Bolt is $35,000. for a car that only saves $700. per year in fuel costs. That assumes an ICE car gets 20 miles/gal on $2.00/gal gas compared to 4 mi/KWH at $.12/KWH electricity. That’s $.10 per mile vs $.03 per mile and 10,000 miles/year. If you don’t like my assumptions, plug in your own.

Outlaw shredded cheese. Make America grate again!

Reply to  Barbara
March 20, 2017 11:50 am

People used to be able to pay for a new car in 2 years using auto loans. Then it went to 3 years and now over 6 years.

Price new fossil fuel vehicles out of the reach of many people. Just make new fossil fuel vehicles to expensive to purchase.

And push public transportation projects.

Reply to  Barbara
March 20, 2017 7:35 pm

It is interesting though that car inflation has been pretty close to zero the last 20 years, and when you consider technological improvement, they have actually gone down in price. Case and point, I purchased a ford focus in 2002 for $17500, and I just purchased a similar level Ford focus last year for $18300 – that is 5% inflation over 14 years or 0.3% a year

Reply to  Stan Bennett
March 20, 2017 6:54 am

Nixon’s 55 mph speed limit was disaster which saved nothing and gave a 0 value to people’s time .

I got a Porsche 924 turbo in 1980 which could and in a pinch did seat 4 — and have room for my computer terminal under the hatch-back .

It was a remarkably practical design and it’s turbocharged 4 cylinder 2 liter engine got about 20 mpg at 100 mph — which was a safe and comfortable speed on a thruway . It had the precision of a Porsche and a shorter stopping distance than a Ferrari of the time .

It’s speedometer only went to 85 .

March 19, 2017 7:36 pm

Lest efficient car on the planet “The Beast” Cadillac used by POTUS. Lest efficient plane Air Force One. Its good to be king.

Andrew Burnette
March 19, 2017 8:00 pm

Your assertion that vehicle safety is proportional to mass is out of date. Because of modern safety measures, the safety of vehicles made in the past decade has pretty much been decoupled from their mass. To understand this you should digest the impressive analyses done by Tom Wenzel at Lawrence Berkeley Labs ( In other words, vehicle mass now has a very minor impact on vehicle safety (statistically insignificant at the 95% confidence level).

Your assertion that VW’s problems are due to them choosing fuel efficiency over meeting emissions standards is also a stretch. While there is certainly a conflict between the goals of fuel efficiency and the super low emissions required to meet the standards, other manufacturers have successfully met those competing requirements. I find it much more likely that VW simply chose a technological path that proved to be beyond their capability (much like Navistar recently did). By the time they figured out their dead-end choice, it was too late to make the required engineering changes and meet their production deadlines. So they chose the expeditious route of faking it instead of loosing market share.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 19, 2017 9:25 pm


I find it much more likely that VW simply chose a technological path that proved to be beyond their capability …


They chose a technology to meed the CAFE standards, and when it couldn’t meet the standards, they cheated. This made the air dirtier, which is exactly what I said.

VW did not equip their 4 cylinder diesels with Selected Catalytic Reduction (using DEF or addblue), IIRC. SCR does not materially affect mileage. SCR is a mature technology that is not “<beyond VW’s capability.” Supposedly, they chose not to license the technology from Mercedes. In other words, it was a money thing. The six cylinder diesels were equipped with SCR systems, but the tweaking may have been to reduce the size of the DEF tank, not related perhaps to mileage except that diesel gets better mileage. In other words, CAFE standards did not affect the cheating, except to the extent that they were able to sell diesels at less cost. The higher mileage of the diesels helped their CAFE compliance, so indirectly Willis is still correct in that VW chose diesel as the technology to comply with CAFE but it isn’t true that the SCR technology couldn’t meet the standards. It was a money thing mostly, I think.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 12:54 am

Willis, I have 2 SUVs in the family (5 drivers). One, made by Toyota, seats 7 and gets about 16 mpg. The other one is a VW 6 cylinder diesel with SCR, seats 5, and gets about 30 mpg (27 city, 33 hwy roughly). The difference in weight is not much, but the difference in mileage is enormous. I expect to get a software fix. I expect I may lose some mileage, but even if I lose 5 mpg, the difference in mileage would still be enormous. We shall see, but the difference in mileage is so great that I just don’t see CAFE standards as being a big incentive for cheating. By not using SCR on the 4 cylinder diesels, they saved the cost of the SCR system and the licensing fees to Mercedes who apparently developed the technology – big incentive. Why they cheated on the 6 cylinder models may have something to do with the stupid size of the DEF tank is what I surmised, based on my hands on experience. Or maybe they decided to tweak the 6 cylinder diesels because the got away with tweaking the 4 cylinders. It isn’t clear to me. Did VW push diesels because of CAFE standards? Oh, yeah, I think that part is clear. But diesels in bigger, heavier cars have such advantages, they would be more common if the EPA wasn’t waging a war on diesels. IIRC, certifying a new diesel engine is enormously expensive – many millions. That is a huge disincentive.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 1:43 am

Just to be factual, I went and checked each car’s digital mileage-o-meter. The SUV made by Toyota showed 14.8mpg since refueling. The tank was at about 1/4, so that would be about 280 miles, since the tank holds 25.4 gal. The VW diesel showed 28.6mpg at about half a tank. The tank size is 26.4gal so that would be about 380 miles. For both vehicles that would be mostly city driving. Like I said, huge difference in mileage and small difference in weight. The VW diesel SUV has a published curb weight of 4,919 lbs and the one made by Toyota: 5,401 lbs. – a difference of only about 10%. The VW diesel consumes a lot less fossil fuel and thus emits a lot less CO2. The technology for clean diesel (SCR or Selective Catalytic Reduction) exists and works. The war on diesel is unjustified. I can’t imagine the mileage being cut in half after the software fix, but we shall see.

Andrew Burnette
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 2:27 am

At this point I do believe the analyses by Wenzel is more accurate than the others since it takes into account much more than mass. But I’ll go back and study it further. My daughter drives one of those tiny Fiats with lots of bags.

Regarding your assertion that I proved your point, I disagree. Your point seemed to have been that VW could only choose one or the other (meet the fuel mileage standards or meet the emissions standards). Yet other manufacturers managed to meet both standards, disproving your assertion. Perhaps that was not the assertion you intended to make? It sure seemed to be.

March 19, 2017 8:37 pm

Why doesn’t everyone who believes in CAGW just regulate economy via speed limits? The 55 mph limit worked, didn’t it? If anyone fears the dreaded co2 molecule, they can just slow down.

On a recent long road trip of 3,500 kms, if I had kept to 90 kmh, I’d have used 9 L per 100 kms. I kept mostly at 105 kmh, however, because I value my time much much more than the extra fuel I use at about 10 L per 100 kms.

In Europe where the motorway limits are 130 kmh, and police are pretty laid back (I was passed by police at 10kmh over a few times), I tend to stay at 135 to 140 kmh on similar road trips, for the same reason.

David Ball
March 19, 2017 8:38 pm

Sorry, if somewhat off topic, but it looks like someone is going give Elon a run for his subsidy. Cool lines, interior ergonomics, 1000 b.h.p., all wheel drive, and a 400 mile battery life, All that and it is reasonably priced.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  David Ball
March 20, 2017 5:37 pm

A beautiful desert filled with wind turbines is no longer beautiful.

Philip Schaeffer
March 19, 2017 8:40 pm

Willis said:

“Unfortunately, there is an ugly truth about cars. Less car weight in crashes means more injury and more deaths. Here’s the cold equation—the less steel that gets bent in a crash, the more flesh and bone that gets bent in a crash. The National Academy of Sciences wrote about this as far back as 2002. They said the CAFE standards were killing about 2,000 people per year.

So we have totally distorted the auto marketplace into trading human blood and misery for fuel economy … not a good plan on my planet.”

Someone forgot to tell Mazda. Their cars have shed weight and maintained safety. Not all steel is created equal, and not all uses of the same weight of steel are equal.

Mazda have proved this.

March 19, 2017 8:53 pm

Less fuel consumption equals less road taxes collected for repairs. Where would the money come from? Higher tag fees, driver license renewals, toll roads?

Reply to  rtpilot1
March 20, 2017 12:15 pm

My state was the first to pilot test taxing per mile driven and other states have now started their own testing. That’s the direction states want to go.

I read into what Oregon proposed and in truth it only makes sense from a politicians money grubbing view point. When converting the proposed mileage tax rate to what it would be vs. our current per gallon purchased tax, my 17 mpg pickup would end up paying less tax while my 35 mpg would pay more tax then they currently do. They actually used 30mpg as their break point so any vehicle that gets less than 30mpg would pay less in tax then currently paid and those getting more than 30mpg would pay more.

Reply to  rtpilot1
March 20, 2017 12:19 pm

Given that people budget money for this purpose, having a more efficient auto likely won’t cut total fuel purchases much. The owners will find it feasible to drive more miles. That said, summed over the USA, some areas will see lowered tax collections and others higher collections.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  cdquarles
March 20, 2017 5:27 pm

I, for one, have yet to limit my driving based on gas prices. They may dictate which of my vehicles I might drive, but not how far or how often.

Reply to  cdquarles
March 21, 2017 8:41 am

Jeff, isn’t that the same effect? Not everyone has multiple vehicles they can use like that.

March 19, 2017 9:08 pm

Diesel engines can be 10% or more thermally efficient than gasoline engines. If you want to reduce CO2 emissions, diesel is the technology to beat. Gasoline doesn’t compare. Diesel is subjected to particulate emissions standards which are measured by the PM2.5 test. That is particles which are less than or equal to 2.5 microns in size. Gasoline particulate emissions, which can be more harmful because they are much smaller and go deeper into the lungs (30 to 70 nm in size) or about a thousand times smaller. Gasoline particulate emissions are unregulated. The smaller gasoline particulates, unlike the diesel particulates, are not visible and do not settle out easily on their own once emitted. Given even light winds, the gasoline particulates tend to remain suspended in the air until washed out by precipitation. EPA has a ridiculous regulation, IIRC, that every diesel vehicle with SCR (i.e. AddBlue) has to have a DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid or addblue) tank large enough to last until the next scheduled service, which for diesel is usually around 10,000 miles. I wonder if VW didn’t tweak the software to meet the tank standard at the expense of the emissions standard (i.e. cutting down on the amount of DEF used increases NOx emissions but saves DEF so the tank doesn’t have to be as big). It’s a type of totalitarianism where the driver can’t be trusted or is believed to be incapable of filling the DEF tank. The six cylinder diesels have Selected Catalytic Reduction systems. The 4 cylinder diesels did not, IIRC. VW reportedly chose not to equip the 4 cylinder diesels with SCR systems.

Reply to  Phil
March 19, 2017 9:09 pm

PM2.5 are particulate that are less than or equal to 2.5 microns in size. Sorry.

March 19, 2017 9:12 pm

CAFE is what Tesla is designed to capitalize on. Tesla collects “credits” for each vehicle produced. They, in turn, sell these “credits” to the other manufacturers so they can produce cars that exceed the standard. So it is a roundabout way for the government to shovel money to Tesla.

March 19, 2017 9:48 pm

On top of the points Willis makes CAFE rules provide lots of other market distortions to promote idiotic energy policies. Take E-85 vehicles for example. Under the rules such a vehicle is assumed to operate one half time on 85% ethanol, but only the 15% of the fuel that is gasoline counts toward corporate fleet average. It is a completely bogus calculation of mpg, and there is a cap on how much the corporate average could rise over a trick of this sort. It was done to encourage flex fuel vehicle production. It makes a mockery of the entire concept of efficiency or average mileage.

To run the U.S. fleet on E-85 would be environmentally criminal.

Reply to  K.kilty
March 20, 2017 12:02 am

I have an E-85 vehicle, and I’m lucky (in uber-green California no less) if I can find E-85 gasoline 5% of the time. When I do, the typical 20 cents per gallon saved seems to be offset by a far lower mileage factor on my vehicle because ethanol has less energy density per kilogram than gasoline.

I didn’t buy the vehicle for E-85 capabilities, I bought it for size and features.

K. Kilty
Reply to  Anthony Watts
March 20, 2017 10:17 am

I certainly didn’t mean to tar anyone who has purchased a flex-fuel vehicle, but rather I was trying to make the point that the impact of flex-fueled vehicles on CAFE calculations is bogus, makes no sense, makes a mockery of logic. I figured last night as I was headed off to oblivion that while the E-85 actually reduces mileage, just as you stated, the impact on calculated mileage would be to increase from probably 24 mpg to something above 30. It makes no sense.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  K.kilty
March 20, 2017 10:15 am

Indeed, regulations typically are there to promote the interests of rent-seekers, not to promote anything truly beneficial. I would never pump an ounce of E-85 into any vehicle I own. Mileage is miserable, engine damage potential significant, and the production of “biofuels” environmentally destructive as well as causing increases in food prices. I resent the stupid 10% ethanol mandate and want it (as well as CAFE) to disappear permanent like, so that I can get better gas mileage and performance and reliability from my cars.

K. Kilty
Reply to  AGW is not Science
March 20, 2017 10:29 am

About ten years ago I was asked to give a talk about renewables at a community college which offered certificates in renewable energy–mainly wind. I had figured that a mandate to use E-50 in the entire U.S. fleet would require planting the equivalent of Wyoming and Colorado in fermentable grains. We know the trouble this would cause. Among other things the best corn and wheat ground in the U.S. is already in production, and new production could only come from putting a plow to marginal land. I also showed that a mandate to make 50% of electrical power from wind by year 2018 would take all national savings, leaving nothing for any other needs.

People at the talk didn’t argue with any of my claims, but the talk was received rather coolly just the same. They didn’t like the kool-aid without so much sugar.

old engineer
March 19, 2017 9:50 pm

As requested, quoting:
“Me, I support the Gordian Knot solution to this lunacy—get rid of the fershlugginer CAFE standards completely, root and branch. Those standards are the reason that Volkswagon had to cheat on their pollution controls.”

While I agree with you about getting rid of CAFE standards, I believe your are wrong about the reason VW cheated. I believe the actual reason VW cheated was to meet the emission standards. Diesel vehicles have a hard time meeting the NOx standard and still have acceptable (to the customer) acceleration and driveability. Since the EPA test uses a fixed time versus vehicle speed (with mild accelerations) for their certification test, the easiest way to meet the standard is to have the vehicle computer check to see if the vehicle speed versus time is the EPA test. If so, the fuel is adjusted to pass the emissions standards at the expense of customer preferred driveability. If the vehicle is NOT following the EPA test cycle, then the fuel is adjusted to driveability. However, because the EPA test has mild accelerations, the car will also get better fuel economy on the EPA test than on the road.

Peter Sable
Reply to  old engineer
March 19, 2017 10:19 pm

. Since the EPA test uses a fixed time versus vehicle speed (with mild accelerations) for their certification test

Then Subaru has been cheating for years. The default mode on their cars is “economy mode”. If I wish to get enter the freeway via an on-ramp at highway speeds so as to not endanger other drivers, I engage “sport mode”.

Actually, I’m just lazy. I leave it in sport mode all the time. Time is money. I want to get to where I’m going as fast as safely possible.


March 19, 2017 10:36 pm

Interesting item at our state museum. A nicely constructed wooden box issued ti members of Congress to hold the 18 quart bottles of liquor issued to them each session. This may explain many of the laws and regulations we find so puzzling.

March 19, 2017 10:38 pm

Good article
“Furshlugginer CAFE”
The first word is from MAD Magazine, circa late1950s.
Second just plain mad in any decade.

Reply to  subtle2
March 21, 2017 7:51 pm

It was Jewish/Yiddish before it was MAD.

March 19, 2017 10:50 pm

Seems to be a peculiarly American thing to assume a heavier car is safer. A lighter car need not be more dangerous, it depends on the designers and engineers. Interesting read on how the standards are manipulated.

Gareth Phillips
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 1:46 am

There is the example that Formula 1 cars are much lighter than in past times, but substantially more safe. It was said at one time that cars were so well built and robust that the only collapsable feature was the driver. The newer lighters cars tend to have crumple zones to address this. Heavier cars are indeed safer, mainly because their heavier weight will transfer momentum to the lighter car they are hitting.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 4:10 am

Willis, you could try turning it on it’s head.
Based on the European NCAP crash tests mass does not impart much more safety during standardised crash tests.
ie Hitting stationary blocks of concrete head or quarter on, having blocks of concrete (representing a vehicle) slammed in to the side of the car.
The latest smaller lighter cars meet those tests with 5 stars,which is the maximum, by careful design of crumple zones, re-inforced passenger cells, pre tension seat belts and multiple air bags.
But some larger, heaver, poorly designed vehicles, especially Chinese, fail the tests with 2 or 3 stars because of “intrusion in to the passenger cell.

In real life it is actually Mass that Kills. If two small light weight cars hit each other the passengers stand a pretty good chance of survival at normal driving speeds.
However if a small car is hit by a much Larger (taller), Heavier vehicle, yes they stand less chance than those passengers in two larger heavier vehicles colliding.
And neither of them stand any chance at all if they are Squished between 2 44 ton trucks.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 9:54 am

Gareth, studies have shown that heavier is safer, no matter what you hit, even fixed objects.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 10:21 am

I think the confusion arises from the fact that people are looking at “safety ratings” and comparing THOSE with respect to vehicles in different size/weight classes, when they CANNOT be compared that way, if you bother to read the fine print in such “ratings.” In the real world, when your “top safety pick” 2800 pound sub-compact collides head-on with a “marginal” 5000 pound suv, your “top safety pick” will get crushed. Physics, as they say, can’t be denied.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 12:50 pm

@Gareth Formula One cars never hit each other head on. They also are surrounded by large numbers of safety barriers, they are very light and their relative weights are almost identical.
Thus F1 is a terrible example.
But even for said example: F1 cars slamming into a tree or bridge at anywhere near full speed still = dead person.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 21, 2017 4:52 pm

“Heavier cars are indeed safer”

Indeed they are.

Which is why I personally drive a Mercedes Benz.

Robert Austin
Reply to  yarpos
March 20, 2017 8:59 am

Simple physics, the conservation of momentum dictates that the lighter vehicle in a two vehicle collision will be subject to greater acceleration forces. Collision testing into fixed barriers obscures the benefits of being in the higher mass vehicle. So your five star econobox does not want to mess with your four star pickup truck.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Robert Austin
March 20, 2017 10:23 am

Heh should have read your post first, could have saved myself some typing…

Reply to  Robert Austin
March 20, 2017 12:39 pm

I’ve seen the results of a Smart car vs. a 1 ton, 4×4, crew cab pickup. The results were not pretty, the pickup had minor damage while the Smart car needed to be shoveled off the road. As I wasn’t actually involved, just stuck in the slow accident traffic I don’t know what happened to those in the vehicles but it didn’t look good for at least the driver of that Smart car.

Reply to  yarpos
March 20, 2017 9:53 am

All other things being equal, a heavier car is a safer car. By applying more technology smaller cars can be made safer.
On the other hand applying the same technology to heavier cars will make them safer as well.

Reply to  yarpos
March 20, 2017 12:48 pm

Simple conservation of momentum.
m1v1 = m2v2
However, energy imparted is not linear: 1/2mv(squared).
Which is why any size car hit by a train, the occupants generally die.
In the case of car on car: a 50% greater mass on one side means the other side exits with more than twice the energy.

March 19, 2017 11:36 pm

Willis, there is an extra consideration, the area of the car. The government guidelines have different parameters based on the footprint.

March 20, 2017 1:10 am


At a price, Porsche have shown the way to achieve the CAFE figure of 54.5 mpg withe the 918 Spyder. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under its five-cycle tests rated the 2015 model year Porsche 918 Spyder energy consumption in all-electric mode at 50 kWh per 100 miles, which translates into a combined city/highway fuel economy of 67 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPG-e) (3.5 L/100 km; 80 mpg-imp gasoline equivalent).[1] When powered only by the gasoline engine, EPA’s official combined city/highway fuel economy is 22 mpg‑US (11 L/100 km; 26 mpg‑imp).

However. only 918 units were built. All were sold for at least $1 million each. Fortunately, the Acura NSX will soon be available for the discerning motorist.

Gareth Phillips
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 1:41 am

There is another option, some of my neighbours charge their cars from their rooftop solar panels. They are not exactly environmentally conscious, but they are financially well informed.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 4:22 am

Willis writes

OR you can burn the fuel in the engine, and avoid all of those inefficiencies.

If you include transmission energy cost then you have to do the same from the oil well via refinery, fuel station and to the car (which may involve a “go out and get fuel trip in some cases”). And similarly from the coal mine via power station to the house too. You’re biasing against energy transport by including it for electricity and not fuel, otherwise.

Oh and the internal combustion engine is only maybe 25% efficient too.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 5:25 am

…some of my neighbours charge their cars from their rooftop solar panels at night.

Well, yes, They are not exactly environmentally conscious.

March 20, 2017 1:18 am

Willis writes Let me start by saying that I think that this is governmental over-reach. In virtually every other part of life we let the market decide the required efficiency.

And if the US Government wanted to go down the “market” path then they could quadruple the amount of tax US citizens pay for fuel which would put them in line with the rest of the world and then see the US head towards more efficient cars like the rest of the world has been. Careful what you wish for.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 1:53 am

So, the rest of the world is nuts and only the US knows what’s best?

Well you say that lighter more efficient cars are more dangerous.
Not according to the statistics.

Doesn’t look good I’m afraid, many of those highly taxed countries do way better than the US.
And incidentally their high price of petrol hasn’t produced higher poverty either.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 2:14 am


I never said rest of the world is nuts, or anything close to that.

Oh please

It doesn’t make us want to emulate them and tax the excrement out of ourselves, that’s nuts.

The rest of the world has high tax. You said doing that was nuts. This isn’t rocket science.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 2:50 am

Willis writes

First, your claim that “the rest of the world has high tax” is simply untrue.

LOL Willis. You stated that, I simply went with your argument. Since you like quotes, the first reference to “rest of the world” in our conversation came from you here

I never said rest of the world is nuts, or anything close to that. That’s just the voices in your head kicking in again.

I took you to mean “rest of the world” as being many other countries including Europe. Now you try to beat me up with it. That’s just rude.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 3:06 am

Perhaps in an attempt to move forward…

Thinking that if we go to a “market” path we’d want to quadruple our taxes … that’s definitely nuts.

It wasn’t nuts for many countries. Here’s a selection

If you cross reference that list with the list of car fatalities you can see your “heavy (inefficient) cars are safer” argument doesn’t hold up to the statistics.

Also look at the countries with high petrol tax and you wont see countries with high poverty either. Now look at the US public debt.

It seems to me that you could do with some extra tax to try to get that debt down. I wouldn’t recommend changing the tax rate all at once, however. That would cause problems.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 8:18 am

Hint: most of the world drives less and drives better than Americans do.

Also, fatality stats are notoriously difficult to compare because some countries only count immediate deaths at the scene, while others count deaths a month or more after the crash.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 9:57 am

Tim, if you think high taxes are a good thing, then you are definitely nuts.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 9:59 am

MarkG: How roads are built and average weather conditions also make a huge difference in traffic death rates.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 10:57 am


The link you provided indicates you do have a point when you say

If you cross reference that list with the list of car fatalities you can see your “heavy (inefficient) cars are safer” argument doesn’t hold up to the statistics.

And that point is emphasised by the wiki link you originally provided.

Also, I would have been a bit miffed by that exchange with Willis, too.

But I write to say that your point is not as clear-cut as you suggest.
Wiki is not really reliable, and your original link to it admits that its data is not directly comparable between countries when it says

The total fatalities figures comes from the WHO report (table A2, column point estimate, pp. 264–271) and are often an adjusted number of road traffic fatalities in order to reflect the different reporting and counting methods among the many countries (e.g. “a death after how many days since accident event is still counted as a road fatality?” (by standard adjusted to a 30 days period), or “to compensate for underreporting in some countries”, see WHO report pp. 62–74)

Anybody who has had anything to do with climate data has learned to be very, very skeptical of any “adjusted number”.


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 21, 2017 8:01 pm

So, the rest of the world is nuts and only the US knows what’s best?

America is a large country. The distance between destinations (actual) is about 2X what you see in Europe.

Also America produces oil.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  TimTheToolMan
March 20, 2017 10:35 am

If the US Government wisely decides to go down the “market” path, further meddling with tax policy would have (by definition) nothing to do with it. They would simply be allowing people to decide for themselves how fuel efficiency factors into their vehicle purchases rather than trying to “force” fuel economy numbers “top down” without any reference to reality.

M Maynard
March 20, 2017 1:30 am

Sorry. I thought the point was to get the public to buy smaller more efficient (sorry effective for the pedantic) vehicles, rather than gas guzzling monsters.

Reply to  M Maynard
March 20, 2017 10:00 am

Why should that be a government concern?

Gareth Phillips
March 20, 2017 1:38 am

According to the Grauniad, EU States are lobbying for the same thing. I suspect the US will supply lots of information as to whether this is effective or not. It’s always good to have a pilot study.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 10:32 am

“The fact that the pluted bloatocrats at EU Brussels are going the opposite way gives me great confidence that we’re headed in the right direction …”

Couldn’t agree more with that!! LMAO!

Ian Macdonald
March 20, 2017 1:46 am

An even crazier situation is that in the EU, cars are taxed according to supposed carbon dioxide emissions per mile or km. Yet, if you compare the claimed fuel consumption per mile with the claimed CO2 emissions per mile for the models from any one manufacturer, you see that they don’t vary in proportion.

That would seem to suggest that the vehicle makes some of its carbon dioxide from materials other than the fuel and air it uses. I’d certainly like to know how it pulls that trick off, as it might be the answer to all our energy and materials needs. Imagine, being able to produce substances from nowhere!

More likely of course, it indicates that the ratings are a fraud.

March 20, 2017 2:02 am

If you want to lessen something, tax it more.

High fuel prices led to an immediate improvement in European fuel economy.

Taxing high consumption cars themselves (Annual car tax) simply means that low mileage users – pensioners and the like – pay a burden on older cars they cannot afford to replace.

Taxing labour, means more unemployment. Yes, it actually does.

Companies have to pay enough wages to cover employees living needs AND the tax needs

Tax spending instead. Scrap income tax, increase purchase tax.

Less consumption and more saving.

Keith J
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 20, 2017 5:09 am

Taxing sales reduces velocities of money which hurts the economy. Tax vice, sloth, greed and ignorance. Griff would not return.

Reply to  Keith J
March 21, 2017 8:07 pm

Taxing vice is a very old idea.

But what if the nature of “sin” changes?

Case in point – cannabis. Which has a number of medical uses But the Feds keep it illegal for “moral” reasons. Or maybe something else.

March 20, 2017 2:18 am

“Less car weight in crashes means more injury and more deaths.”

No, it doesn’t.

with airbags, seatbelts (the crazy Us notion they trap people is just nuts) and crumple zones, small light European and Japanese cars are very safe.

I might add that most nations have an equivalent of the UK’MOT’ which prevents ‘junker’ and mechanically unsafe cars driving on the roads. US would benefit in safety terms but it would of course hit your poorest workers hard.

I would also say that fuel efficiency is good for the car buyer and sometimes govts can and should legislate for the consumer, not the manufacturer.

but of course the rest of the (rational) world believes in reducing CO2 and reducing fossil fuel use is a social benefit and a necessary action.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 4:02 am

Willis writes


But if you look at the actual causes for the accidents…

You can see that most accidents are head ons and failure to give way. That means its car vs car and if there are a lot of large cars around then in a smaller car you’re toast. However comparing to statistics from countries that have smaller more efficient cars, the death rates fall overall.

So if there is no pressure for everyone to reduce car sizes then you’re going to be better off in a bigger car. But pressure to increase car sizes for safety by having low fuel prices and no regulations isn’t necessarily the best policy for the US to have.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 10:02 am

Accidents are broken down by category. (same size, different size, fixed object, etc.) And in every category, bigger is safer.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 20, 2017 11:30 pm

“MarkW March 20, 2017 at 10:02 am”

Bigger is better in *ALL* cases? I don’t think so. If you are in a compact car and hit by a truck, you are likely gone. Other way around, you will likely suffer injuries, but likely walk away. Modern cars are built with crumple zones which absorbs energy in a crash. Anything built on a ladder frame chassis is too rigid and the energy in a crash, any crash, is transferred to the occupants, bit like a can of crushed tomatoes.

Nigel S
Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 3:45 am

Just rational laws of physics I’m afraid Griff. The lighter car and its cocooned occupants must have a greater change of velocity than the heavier car and its cocooned occupants. Crumple zones, air bags etc. mitigate that but they can’t overcome it.

Matt Bergin
Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 7:04 am

As usual you are wrong Griff. A couple of months ago a brand new Challenger was sent to the scrap heap after a small altercation with my 1992 Ford F150. He changed lanes into my truck and the truck’s 3/8ths inch solid steel bumper completely destroyed the drivers side of the car while the bumper sustained a 4 inch scratch and my passenger fender also had a small dent. I drove my truck home painted the scratch and didn’t worry about the dent. I saw the Challenger in the pick and pull a few weeks later. You can park your small car in front of my truck and let me run into you at 30 mph if you really believe that small little light cars are safe. My truck only cost me $200 so I am willing to sacrifice it for science. 🙂

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 11:39 pm

“Griff March 20, 2017 at 2:18 am

I might add that most nations have an equivalent of the UK ’MOT’ which prevents ‘junker’ and mechanically unsafe cars driving on the roads.”

While Ministry of Transport (MoT) road worthiness test is tough, buy Australian and New Zealand standards, it by no means prevents junkers and unsafe cars on the UK roads as the MOT test is valid only ON THE DAY OF THE TEST. In the UK there are some 3000 laws that can attract a penalty simply by picking up a set of car keys and approaching a vehicle, even if the keys are not for that vehicle, crazy, but true! In the UK, by law, you are required to ensure lights, tyres, body, windscreen wipers etc, are “road worthy”, even before you get in the vehicle. Enforcing those laws is difficult.

March 20, 2017 3:11 am

They used aluminum in the new Ford F150s. They did a side by side test with a Chevy and the Ford lost big time. I doubt a lighter truck would haul as well either.

Danny V
Reply to  4TimesAYear
March 21, 2017 10:42 am

A “side by side test” determining what? Please post link.

Reply to  Danny V
March 22, 2017 8:26 pm

Bed strength and concrete blocks. Let ‘er rip 🙂

March 20, 2017 3:43 am

Willis, you state:

“But under the CAFE rules, if you merely make your car lighter, you can claim it’s more “economical”.”

It is not so easy to make cars lighter. I had a 1970ies Audi 100 GL (the largest Ausdi then), runnig 200 km/hr. It had a weight of 1100 kg. Now a big Audi A8 weighs more than two (metric) tons, despite the fact that they use now aluminum instead of steel to make it lighter. I think the security of the old Audi was not bad. Security is gained in the way how the car body consumes the energy through deformation, so pure weight doesn’t count as an argument, especially as it comes from a bigger engine, tranny, cables, servo motors, unholstery, and noies reduction materials, etc.

Now I have a 4 door VW up! runnig with natural gas, consuming less than 3kg/100km, which equals to 94 mpg. It weighs less than my old Audi and has maximum 5 stars at the Euro NCAP crah test. And it makes quite fun to fill a tank with 12 Euro ready to drive another 400km, plus having 300km reserve on normal gas.

The weight of a car as a security measure is also one-sided. What about pedestrians, cyclists, bikers? And should everone use a light truck, a heavy truck or even a Panzer?

Reply to  naturbaumeister
March 20, 2017 7:15 am

I’m surprised that not many people thought of using methane as fuel.
The conversion from petrol to LNG is relatively cheap. Natural gas is abundant in the US, and so refuelling is cheaper than petrol. The greens would be happy about decreased emissions and air pollution, and the country would be less dependent on oil imports. So everyone wins.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Sobaken
March 20, 2017 10:31 am

But LNG boils at -162°C or -260°F, which means it must be kept in cryogenic tanks with active refrigeration. There is no way to avoid some boil-off. LNG tankers simply use the boil-off gas to run the engines and re-liquify any excess — not practical for a motor vehicle fuel.

Many US urban buses have been converted to run on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), but the volumetric energy density is much lower than LNG, so it is limited to large fleet vehicles with predictable routes between refueling stops.

Propane could be used as a motor fuel, because its boiling point is much higher and can be safely stored in low-pressure tanks. But LPG has a significantly lower volumetric energy density than gasoline, reducing the effective range of an LPG-powered vehicle on the same fuel capacity. The LPG conversions I’ve seen are pickup trucks, where the LPG tank occupies the front of the bed and the original gas tank is retained to create a dual-fuel vehicle. Propane burns much cleaner than gasoline (no abrasive ash) which prolongs engine life and it’s easier starting in cold weather.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  naturbaumeister
March 20, 2017 4:34 pm

“I had a 1970ies Audi 100 GL”

Nineteen Seventyies?

March 20, 2017 3:57 am

I just checked the report on deadly car crashes which Willis mentioed. For a first quick view, it seems to be quite dangerous to drive in a car from an U.S. car maunfacturer…

However, if I coud afford, I would like to drive an oldie U.S. gas guzzler…

Terry Warner
March 20, 2017 4:16 am

All things being equal a larger vehicle is likely to be safer in a crash than a smaller vehicle. But in Europe improvements in car safety design have significantly improved crash survival. With a strict regime to ensure vehicles are actually roadworthy (eg: annual MOT test in UK), the optimal solution may be to improve the stock of vehicles being used not not simply use larger vehicles.

The inevitable consequence of “bigger is better” is a race towards heavier, larger, less economic vehicles, making road safety an economic issue – only those with the money can afford to run a new large vehicle, those with less can only run an old large vehicle lacking current safety features..

However given that cars have no purpose save to transport their freight – people and goods – the real level of vehicle efficiency is woeful. 2500kg of SUV to move (say) 80kg of homo sapien + 20kg of shopping is an efficiency of 4% before factoring in the fuel efficiency.

Irrespective of views on climate change, peak oil etc etc, it is clear that many cities are becoming increasingly unpleasant polluted places to live, and cars are a major contributor to the problem. So a tax regime which encourages reduced emissions should be welcomed.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Terry Warner
March 20, 2017 10:54 am

No, the government should not try to “fix” with taxes the monster it created with transportation regulations and taxpayer funding to begin with. The government in the US treated railroads like they were a transport monopoly for decades after they had undermined their business (and were certainly no longer even close to being any monopoly) by building up and effectively granting massive subsidies to every competitor, including automobiles, buses and trucking (highways), airlines (airports, air traffic control systems, R&D (from the military mostly), and marketing (the FAA is, among other things, charged with PROMOTING air travel – why in hell does the government need to ‘promote” a mode of transport?!), and waterways (through Army Corps of Engineers, dredging, etc.).

Let the government “invest” in high speed intercity rail and high speed local rail and a nationwide “autotrain” type service to reduce the “need” for people to use cars for as many things/miles, if they are really interested in reducing emissions, not punish us for doing what they basically required us to do by their meddling in the first place.

Keith J
March 20, 2017 4:43 am

Weight is mostly an issue with urban cycle due to braking which converts kinetic energy to heat. Aerodynamic drag is the main energy expenditure on highway cycle..this drag has gone way down over the past 40 years.

Engines have gotten MUCH better. Direct injection gasoline is just as efficient as diesel based on energy content ( gasoline has slightly less energy per gallon compared to diesel). Since diesel is now more expensive, that is a wash. Smoky Yunick predicted this..too bad he didn’t see it.

The weight issue vanishes with regenerative braking which is why hybrid drive systems have great urban cycle economy, often rivaling highway.

Reply to  Keith J
March 20, 2017 5:09 am

Interestingly, the size of the engine, has a lot to do with efficiency. If I took a standard Ford Focus with a 160HP 2.2 liter engine and plunked in a 1.1 liter 75 hp engine, It would almost double mileage. It forces people to drive slower, and not accelerate as fast.

The secret to the 100mpg car, is to get one that runs acceptably on a 40hp engine.

Keith J
Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 5:21 am

No, that isn’t right. Engine efficiency is limited by construction. Theoretical maximum is by Carnot which is limited by temperature. Which in the Otto Cycle is mechanically set by compression ratio and material limits.

Sure, a smaller engine will slightly improve mileage but only because the Otto Cycle is variable compression due to manifold vacuum at all but wide open throttle. Engines are most efficient at the highest manifold pressure because there is where combustion temperature is highest…Sadi Carnot says so.

Direct injected gasoline engines use much higher mechanical compression ratios as preignition cannot happen. These engines still use a spark for ignition but have isobaric heat addition, just like a diesel. And all use low pressure turbo-supercharger .

Robert Austin
Reply to  marque2
March 20, 2017 9:12 am

“Almost double the mileage”

Wildly optimistic or delusional, take your pick. It forces people to drive with their foot to the floor, not drive slower.

March 20, 2017 5:06 am

A lot of other countries tax cars, and base annual registration fees on the displacement of the engine. That is why in Europe you see so many micro cars and even compacts with ridiculously small engines. A VW Jetta with a 1.2 liter engine, as an example. Of course that caused the European manufacturers to figure out how to get as much horsepower out of an engine as possible, just so the cars could exist on the autobahn, pollution, or reliability be damned.

Sandy In Limousin
March 20, 2017 5:11 am

Only just read this article so sorry for the lateness of this comment.

Using the the deaths per billion km data from Wikipedia

For those countries supplying data the safest places to drive are in mainly in Northern Europe, namely and in descending order of safety Sweden, UK, Eire, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Australia Israel.

The USA comes in at 17th with just over twice the rate of Sweden.

The story is similar for deaths per vehicle USA 30th, and population USA 58th (10x the rate in Sweden 2nd) Micronesia being in number 1 position.

So although larger vehicles may be safer and in the USA the percentage of large vehicles is far greater than Northern Europe it would appear that the chances of being killed in a crash involving one or more large vehicles are much greater than the chances of being killed in a crash involving a collision between two NCAP tested smaller European cars or crashing an NCAP tested smaller car into a wall or tree.

Reply to  Sandy In Limousin
March 20, 2017 11:24 am

Sandy In Limousin:

You provide the same link to make the same point as TimTheToolMan made above.

I copy to you what I said to him.

I write to say that your point is not as clear-cut as you suggest.
Wiki is not really reliable, and your original link to it admits that its data is not directly comparable between countries when it says

The total fatalities figures comes from the WHO report (table A2, column point estimate, pp. 264–271) and are often an adjusted number of road traffic fatalities in order to reflect the different reporting and counting methods among the many countries (e.g. “a death after how many days since accident event is still counted as a road fatality?” (by standard adjusted to a 30 days period), or “to compensate for underreporting in some countries”, see WHO report pp. 62–74)

Anybody who has had anything to do with climate data has learned to be very, very skeptical of any “adjusted number”.


Sandy In Limousin
Reply to  richardscourtney
March 20, 2017 3:46 pm

Yes the data is adjusted, but is there any suggestion that in general the death rate in RTAs is not less in North Europe than North America by whatever method (by mileage, population, vehicle numbers) is used to measure it?

Or is it that there are fewer accidents by whatever measure in North Europe than North America and the death rate per accident is the same?

Reply to  richardscourtney
March 21, 2017 1:47 am

Sandy In Limousin:

I suspect your claims are right but I don’t know if they are or not.
And I don’t know the answers to your questions posed to me. Do you?

I only know that, as I said,

Anybody who has had anything to do with climate data has learned to be very, very skeptical of any “adjusted number”.


March 20, 2017 5:13 am

We can’t on the one hand, claim that the use of fossil fuels shouldn’t be denied to the third world because that will keep them in poverty while at the same time we waste these precious resources on 2 ton SUVs and pickup trucks. Regardless of where you stand on CO2 emissions, there’s something immoral about using a loaded F150 to go to the local C-Store to pick up a loaf of bread. We in the West consume an inordinate amount of fossil fuels to support our lifestyles.

Keith J
Reply to  Trebla
March 20, 2017 5:27 am

Quit guilt tripping. Our technology transfers plus foreign aid counts for something.

I didn’t force poverty on the third world, their government did just that. Case in point is Bobby Mugabe.

Reply to  Trebla
March 20, 2017 10:06 am

One constant with leftists. They want to control the choices other people make.

Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 11:33 am

The writers MarkW bot need to amend and update it because it has become tediously predictable.

One constant with the MarkW bot. It asserts that any post it does not like is from a “leftist” then makes an unwarranted assertion about “leftists” that has no basis in reality.


Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Trebla
March 20, 2017 4:29 pm

We can’t on the one hand, claim that the use of fossil fuels shouldn’t be denied to the third world because that will keep them in poverty while at the same time we waste these precious resources on 2 ton SUVs and pickup trucks.

Mine is 3 tons, I’ll have you know.

Likewise, using a vast oil infrastructure to post frivolous comments on a decadent Western blog is also immoral, to the person who has to carry clay jugs of water from the local stream every day.

If people don’t like their lot in life, they should act to change it, not wait around for someone else to change it for them. Odds are they’ll get something else they don’t like. I don’t feel immoral for using something I worked to buy.

March 20, 2017 5:15 am

There are other factors as well which at least partly negate the supposed benefit of the CAFE standards. To meet crash testing with less structure designers are resorting to aluminum, press hardened steel and other more exotic alloys for structural members. I cars using press hardened steel for example each structural part is heated to 900C (martensitic range) then formed and quenched in the press to get the strength needed in a thinner lightweight part. Aluminum is also obviously more energy intense than mild steel. Multiple studies have shown that electric cars need to operate up to 50,000 miles before they recoup the extra energy needed to make them as light as possible.

March 20, 2017 6:07 am

there will always be unintended consequences. The original CAFE standards did not include trucks or vehicles on truck chassis. This led to the invention of the SUV. Station wagons died out and SUVs took their place (families still wanted station wagons but had to buy an SUV in order to get the size car they needed for kids and gear). The net result was more gas guzzling SUVs instead of gas guzzling station wagons.
This time around, the US gov’t did include trucks. Ergo the Ford F-150 with aluminum boxes. What will happen will be shops specializing in retrofitting old trucks (if the idiotic CAFE standards are kept). Keep your 2016 F-150 running by replacing everything but the gas cap as time goes on (I’m assuming that other truck manufacturers will follow suit).
Finally, there is a very interesting video showing the results of a 1959 Chevy Impala crashing head-on into a 2009 Chevy Impala. Bottom line: driver of the ’59 Impala would have been killed, driver of the ’09 would have walked away from the crash

Non Nomen
Reply to  CWinNY
March 20, 2017 7:35 am

Seat belts, if fastened, play a significant role in passenger safety, plus, of course, airbags. Both features are missing on the ’59 Impala. Comparing that vehicle to a 2009 model is a bit misleading.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  CWinNY
March 20, 2017 11:23 am

“Interesting” in what respect? The result is hardly unexpected….

March 20, 2017 6:12 am

The energy it takes to move a vehicle along the road is dominated by two parameters: aerodynamic drag and tire rolling resistance. Drag varies with the square of speed, so a great improvement would be to reduce the speed. This is easily achievable with a simple federal law, but voters would quickly eliminate the causes of such an alternative – the politicians who demanded it. Tire rolling resistance is about 1% of the weight of the vehicle being moved. This is mostly independent of the size of the vehicle and most other typical driving conditions. It simply takes an average rolling resistance force of one percent of the vehicle weight to get from A to B and back, no matter what else you might do.

The 1% value for rolling resistance has remained quite constant over the years. It’s because tires must do more than roll the vehicle along, they must also provide cornering and braking forces. (You can get great stopping distances by putting double sided sticky tape on the tires, but it kills your fuel economy.) Federal regulations include braking and cornering as well as fuel economy, so there is no simple law that can “fix” them all, regardless of what the voters might think about it.

The absurd 54 mpg CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirement by 2025 involves vehicles which are all already on the drawing boards. Thus the only known technology to meet it is to reduce size and weight, Oh, and then also give away a few million electric vehicles, in order to average in vehicles with zero “fuel” consumption.

Donald Hanson
March 20, 2017 6:36 am

They found coal fire electric plants were only 33% efficient. They wanted to pass a bill requiring that they increase the efficiency. They really don’t consider science or common sense.

Reply to  Donald Hanson
March 20, 2017 10:09 am

I hear that the local legislature wants to pass a bill that will modify the law of gravity.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Donald Hanson
March 20, 2017 11:25 am

I think we should outlaw bills passed by dimwits, especially those who think reality can be overruled by government fiat.

March 20, 2017 7:18 am

I drive my Dodge 1500 with hemi, 4 wheel drive, air, quad cab whenever possible. It is fun, safe, large, and I can afford it. When in overdrive I get 21.5 mpg on highway. No going back to a small vehicle again. Love pumping out CO2 into the atmosphere for trees to munch on.

March 20, 2017 8:28 am

CAFE regulations are also responsible for the Chevy Cobalt ignition switch fiasco. US car builders cannot make a profit on the smallest cars, for which customers will not pay as much but want all the features of larger cars. Hence, GM engineers stayed with an ignition switch which could turn the motor off if keychain was too heavy, to avoid adding a few cents to direct cost, making the vehicle even less profitable. Killed quite a few people…

March 20, 2017 8:48 am

related, epa tier 4 and diesel engines. locomotives large enough to (for freight) run split cooling systems to avoid urea treatments (newer passenger locomotives use urea) but many OTR/smaller trucks cannot so have to use urea.
and tier 5 due in 2019….
emd went over a year not building any new locomotives as they had to design a new 4 stroke engine to work in their locomotives.

March 20, 2017 9:23 am


Some remark on:

Less car weight in crashes means more injury and more deaths

Having had a car (Citroën 2CV) of about 560 kg empty weight, the above is true and false: only the weight difference between the cars in frontal collisions plays a role. It doesn’t make any difference when the car crashes against a wall, bridge, rock or tree (or a heavy truck): in all cases the “braking distance”, or how much steel is bend at the speed you drive at the moment of the collision is all what counts. That is even more for a 560 kg 2CV as for a 3000 kg Hummer, which has little ply zone…

Of course, as lighter cars are more dangerous at frontal collissions with heavier cars, everybody wants to drive in the heavier one. But that is of no help if everybody drives heavier cars, no matter how heavy. The possibility to get killed is less for a frontal collission between two 2CV’s as between two tanks, as these have no ply zone at all…

What tremendously helps is driving slower: the braking distance to avoid a possible accident increases with the second power of the driving speed. If you drive 100 km/h and need an emergency stop, you are stopped completely where a car starting braking at 120 km/h from the same point still drives at 70 km/h. By far more than deadly enough, even with all the airbags etc…