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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Did You Know… New Fuel Standards Raise Safety Questions?

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New Fuel Economy Standards Require 54.5 MPH Fleetwide Average by 2025Earlier this month, the White House announced new fuel economy standards requiring a fleet-wide average of 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025. When President Obama took office in 2009, fuel economy standards for passenger cars were the as when President Reagan held office in 1985. In 2009, the President increased the national standard to 35.5 mpg by 2016. The new fuel standards aim to increase efficiency by more than 50%. However, Peter Valdes-Depena at CNNMoney has detailed potential safety problems with new fuel mileage standards.

Valdes-Depena cited an auto industry survey of engineers by Wards Automotive, saying that 75% of auto engineers felt that the new standard would jeopardize safety.

"Over and over we heard their concerns over dealing with other issues aside from fuel economy — namely, safety — that tend to add weight," Winter [of Ward’s Auto World magazine] said.

David Friedman, and engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, disagrees. Friedman says auto company engineers are underestimating their own capabilities and that [s]eemingly difficult fuel economy and safety requirements have been met in the past, over industry objections, and they will be again."

[A]utomakers have broad flexibility to produce vehicles of various types and sizes. The regulations would set different fuel economy targets for different-sized vehicles, [Friedman] said, and automaker[s] will just have to meet the goals [for] each type of vehicle.

Even the Ward’s Automotive editor conceded that "[i]n the end, auto industry engineers could still find a way to deliver cars and trucks people like while meeting these standards."

No doubt, the new fuel economy standards present challenges for car companies and the engineers who design and test new vehicles. Car companies need to all that is necessary to ensure that they continue to make safety improvements to vehicles as these new fuel efficiency standards are implemented. Safety should not take a backseat to other considerations, whether fuel economy standards or corporate profits.

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(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison