(Koji Sasahara / Associated…)
In 2025, when the auto industry would be required to meet a 54.5-mile-per-gallon fuel economy target that the Obama administration is about to announce, the vehicles Americans will drive may not look very different than those on the road today, industry and environmental experts say.
But what will be under the hood is another story.
From pick-up trucks and SUVs to hybrids and subcompact cars, almost every vehicle sold in the United States is likely to boast the advanced technology now confined to only the most fuel-efficient.
While the new standard will be a big numerical step beyond the 34 mpg average mandated for 2012, experts say the secret to achieving it is not some huge breakthrough such as inventing a super battery. Rather, the key will be applying what’s already known or on the drawing boards to almost every vehicle, not just a relative handful of super-efficient cars and trucks.
"You have to look at a vehicle not just as one thing that will put you over the goal line but all sorts [of] different things that will help you," said Richard Truett, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman. "We have a head start on that. But everyone has to do it."
And not every truck and SUV will have to get the higher mileage. The standard applies to the so-called fleet average, a complex calculation of the combined fuel efficiency of all the vehicles sold in a model year. That means some gas-guzzlers can still be sold; they just have to be offset by a larger number of highly efficient cars.
After weeks of intensive talks at the White House with regulatory agencies, car makers, the state of California and environmentalists, President Obama plans to make a speech in Washington on Friday to outline a plan for boosting fuel economy standards beginning in 2017 and reaching a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The new requirements build on rules starting for model year 2012 that seek to push up fuel economy to 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016. The more efficient cars and trucks are also expected to drive down the greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.
Right now, the American fleet of passenger vehicles averages about 27.8 miles per gallon.