CAFE Standards

The U.S. DOT aims to increase the average fuel economy of American cars in future model designs. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are regulations set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to regulate and improve the fuel economy of compact cars and light trucks in the U.S. Typically automotive companies ignore the standards and pay the difference in the fuel economy, which is currently $5.50 per 0.1 mpg under 27.5 mpg for each passenger car.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama entered into an agreement with 13 automotive companies to increase the car and light truck fuel efficiency standard to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The new CAFE standards have not officially been accepted, but if implemented, it would be the first change to the CAFE standard for passenger cars since 1990. The new agreement pushed OEMS to invest in research for reducing vehicle fuel consumption.

One of the main ways to raise fuel economy is to reduce vehicle weight, substituting steel heavy parts for alternative materials. If the new CAFE standards are passed, the automotive industry could see drastic changes for better fuel economy and integration of alternate materials to help lighten vehicles. “My personal observation,” says Busel “is that much like Boeing took a risk and made a statement with integrating composites into the 787 Dreamliner, the automotive industry needs to make a major statement along the same lines and pick a material. We hope its plastics and composites.”