CALSTART: Suppliers Support Fuel Economy Rules, Split on Electrification


A majority of automotive suppliers – 70%, specifically – see national fuel economy standards as important for long-term planning and investment and don’t want to see them altered by policymakers, according to an industry survey commissioned by CALSTART, an automotive technology industry group.

“This survey underscores the degree to which deploying new fuel-efficient technology is already baked into companies’ business plans,” said John Boesel, president and CEO of CALSTART. “Companies are clearly ready to innovate and see the upside in the standards.”

CALSTART says it commissioned Ricardo Energy & Environment – a global environmental consultancy that specializes in the development and implementation of sustainable policy and technology across the automotive industry – to conduct the survey over the summer.

The firm polled and interviewed 23 suppliers, almost all of them global Tier 1 suppliers that sell parts directly to automakers.

The survey’s results found the following:

  • 70% of suppliers said policymakers should not adjust the program’s goals;
  • 65% agreed with the decision to set new miles-per-gallon standards for 2025, with 30% saying they strongly agreed with the decision;
  • Among those who agreed, all but one named regulatory certainty as critical for the industry, and half said the standards spark innovation;
  • 59% said that fuel-economy standards help spur job growth;
  • Suppliers identified a wide range of conventional and electric technology that could be used to meet the standards; and
  • Three-quarters agreed that setting targets beyond 2025 is also important for long-term planning.

Mihai Dorobantu, the director of technology planning and government affairs at Eaton Vehicle Group, a major automotive supplier that participated in the survey, stated that he appreciated CALSTART seeking insights from advanced technology suppliers.

“Eaton has cost-effective technologies today that help manufacturers improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions,” he said. “We’re actively developing other fuel-saving and electrification technologies for internal combustion engines and electrified propulsion that will further improve vehicle performance today and into the future.”

When presented with a list of technologies that might be used to meet fuel-efficiency standards, suppliers picked turbocharging and engine downsizing, along with higher-speed automatic transmissions, as the most critical. Hybrid technology was also designated as important, along with variable valve timing, gasoline direct injection and mass reduction.

According to CALSTART, suppliers were split on whether meeting the standards would ultimately require more electric vehicles than are already slated to hit the roads under state zero-emissions vehicle requirements.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and California Air Resources Board issued a technical analysis of Corporate Average Fuel Economy and greenhouse-gas standards for light-duty cars and trucks, focusing on mileage requirements for model years 2022 to 2025. The agencies will take public comments on the analysis until Sept. 26 and will formally propose new requirements next year.

Starting in 2008, agencies reformed fuel-economy requirements to make them footprint-based, meaning smaller vehicles have higher miles-per-gallon requirements, while larger vehicles have lower ones. Suppliers emphasized that even as all vehicle types become more efficient, consumers are expected to buy more large cars, trucks and SUVs if gas prices remain low.

Overall, federal agencies project a fleet-wide fuel economy average of between 50 miles and 52.6 miles per gallon under test conditions for the 2025 model year. That translates to an average of 36 miles per gallon in actual on-road performance.

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