The Chevrolet Cruze Eco will use a 1.4L Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder engine to achieve 40 mpg on the highway.
The Obama administration touts new fuel economy standards

The federal government is pushing hard for manufacturers to clean up their act when it comes to emissions and fuel economy. Over the past few decades, we've seen power output for mainstream vehicles increase rapidly while appreciable gains in fuel economy haven't come nearly as fast.

That is about to change thanks to new regulations touted by the Obama administration. In typical Washington fashion, the new CAFE standard of 34.1 mpg set by the NHTSA and the EPA is buried within a 1,469-page document. The fleet-wide 34.1 mpg figure must be met by auto manufacturers by 2016.

“These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies,” said NHTSA Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air.” 

Automakers will gradually increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles -- passenger cars will required to meet an average of 33.3 mpg in 2012 and 37.8 mpg by 2016. Trucks, on the other hand, will be required to achieve an average of 25.4 mpg in 2012 and by 2016, the requirement will be 28.8 mpg. Overall CAFE (cars and trucks combined) must meet or exceed 29.7 mpg in 2012 and rise from there until 34.1 mpg is reached in 2016.

Automakers are expected to take a hit to their wallets of $51.5 billion over a five year span -- auto buyers can expect to pay nearly $1,000 extra for a new car that meets these new regulations. The government counters, however, that the the average driver will save roughly $3,000 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle and the "benefit to society" thanks to reduced emissions and fuel consumption will ring in at $240 billion.

The EPA will also provide incentives to automakers that produce plug-in hybrid vehicles (the incentives will be available for the first 200,000 units produced per automaker).

“This is a significant step towards cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand-in-hand,” added EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “By working together with industry and capitalizing on our capacity for innovation, we’ve developed a clean cars program that is a win for automakers and drivers, a win for innovators and entrepreneurs, and a win for our planet.” 

Automakers are already stepping up their efforts to increase fuel efficiency (even without the use of hybrid powertrains) as witnessed by manufacturers like General Motors, Ford, and Hyundai. Chevrolet's upcoming compact Cruze Eco will be available in a variant that will achieve 40 mpg. Ford is touting its upcoming subcompact Fiesta as achieving 40 mpg on the highway. Hyundai, on the other hand, is proud of its new midsize Sonata which achieves 35 mpg on the highway.

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