What Are CAFE Standards?
In the automotive world, there are plenty of acronyms that a lot of people don’t understand. From 4WD and IIHS to KMA and NHTSA, these acronyms often leave car-industry outsiders scratching their heads and saying, “Huh?” One of the most ambiguous of all the acronyms in the automotive industry—and possibly one of the most important—is CAFE.
CAFE, which stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, are standards in the United States first set by Congress in 1975 to help increase the fuel economy of cars and trucks. As awareness of pollution’s effect on the environment grew and the cost of gasoline continued to increase drastically—particularly after the Arab Oil Embargo—the government decided to set specific standards car makers must follow in order to sell vehicles in the United States. These standards became known as CAFE standards, helping reduce gasoline consumption.
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The values for CAFE standards are created using the city and highway fuel economy test results of each vehicle sold in the US. These values are then weighted depending on the vehicle’s average sales. Each automaker that sells vehicles within the United States must achieve a certain lineup-wide average, helping improve our nation’s energy security, while also saving consumers money at the gas pump.
The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) specifically regulates the CAFE standards, enforcing them while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates the average fuel economy levels for car makers and sets related greenhouse gas emissions standards. These standards vary depending on the year, but have consistently gotten higher and higher, helping to reduce the impact vehicles have on the environment.
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The newest CAFE standards will help increase the availability of alternative fuel vehicles, promote the use of innovative, fuel-saving technologies in the car industry, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the country’s petroleum consumption. With these benefits, it’s easy to see why Congress initially set these specific standards.
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