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Could the proposed standards lead to automakers vacating smaller platforms?

The proposed CAFE standards that have been looming all year will force some major changes on the automotive market. The government says that the much more stringent fuel economy standard will save consumers at the pump and reduce the national need for foreign oil. The auto industry has said that the cost of meeting the standard would increase the cost of new vehicles and could result in lost jobs.
According to a new study published by the University of Michigan, the CAFE standards will make cars larger, not smaller. The study indicates that there is a loophole in the economy standards that the automakers could exploit.
"For just about all the scenarios, the car got bigger,” said Steven Skerlos, an associate professor at U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering. “What you can model in a computer is different from reality, but based on this research we expect it to happen."
The loophole is that the formula used for determining miles per gallons required under the new standard uses the vehicles footprint (multiplying the wheelbase by track width). This was done to give larger vehicles less stringent economy standards to follow. In a nutshell, the formula favors larger vehicles and those vehicles may be less costly since they wouldn't have to use as much technology for fuel gains. 
Therefore, automakers may design new vehicles to be larger in an effort to target the lower economy standards. The study also claims that not only would the automakers considering redesigning a vehicle to go for the lower economy limits undermine the CAFE standard goals, but it would also create more pollution
"This study illustrates that there may be a substantial financial incentive to produce larger vehicles, and that it can undermine the goals of the policy," said Kate Whitefoot, who conducted the research as a U-M design science doctoral student and is now a senior program officer at the National Academy of Engineering.

Source: AutoNews

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Not Surprised US Gov't Screwed Up Again
By n00bxqb on 12/14/2011 1:32:42 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming the information in this article is true (don't have time to cross reference right now), I'm seriously not at all surprised. Fuel economy standards, even as intended, are still screwed up. They introduce these supposedly tougher standards while still maintaining a 48 MPH (77 km/h) highway test speed (which they increased a few years ago, IIRC). Have they been on highways, per chance ? All the highways that are in my area are 80-110 km/h (50-68 MPH) and people generally go 10 over (90-120 km/h or 56-75 MPH).

So you have all these new vehicles that are being popped out that are larger than their predecessors to reduce fuel economy standards and, on top of it, you have all these new vehicles coming out optimized for 48 MPH where the average highway speed is about 65 MPH. It may not seem like a huge difference, but remember that the power required to ovecome air resistance is cubed, so a 35% increase in speed requires about 2.5x more power to overcome air resistance. If you have larger vehicles, air resistance is already increased (frontal area and drag coefficient being major factors as well at high speed), too.

What you theoretically end up with is substantially lower than optimal fuel economy at ACTUAL highway speeds.

By Mint on 12/14/2011 2:17:43 PM , Rating: 2
That may be the average highway test speed, but they're not tested at a constant speed. Most cars will actually get better MPG at the constant 65 MPH you're talking about for traffic-free driving.

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