Better hurry, if you want a new SUV or truck you can still afford.
Or anything new you can still afford.
Twelve states – led by California – are suing the federal government to reinstate what President Trump rescinded about two weeks ago: A near-tripling of federal “gas guzzler” fines imposed by his predecessor – to be applied to all new vehicles that don’t meet federal mandatory MPG minimums.
Which are set to almost double.
Under the terms of a pair of federal fatwas hurled during the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, all new cars will be required to average nearly 50 MPG (up from about 36 MPG currently) by 2026 – or be socked with fines to the tune of $14 (up from just $5) for every 0.1 MPG they fall short.
“Gas guzzler” fines have been around since the ‘70s – when the federal government first got into the business of decreeing MPG mandatory minimums – also known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
But until recently, the mandatory MPG minimums – and the fines – always increased gradually.
The original mandated MPG average was 18 MPG. It went into effect in the late 1970s. The current mandatory minimum of 36.5 MPG is about twice that – but it took more than 30 years to get to that.
Coping with a near-doubling of the current MPG mandatory minimum – in just six years’ time – represents either wishful thinking or vengeful thinking.
Wishful, because almost no new cars average anywhere near 50 MPG – except for compact-sized hybrid-electric cars like the Toyota Prius. The technology needed to make non-hybrid cars – let alone full-size trucks and SUVs – average (city and highway) 50 MPG simply doesn’t exist.
And it can’t be wished – or fatwa’d – into existence.
The car industry has already had to resort to Rube Goldberg-esque engineering extremes to deal with the current 36.6 MPG CAFE standard.
Many new cars have eight, nine and even ten speed transmissions with multiple overdrive gears, to reduce engine RPM at steady-state cruising speeds; engines that shut off automatically whenever the car isn’t actually moving (automatic stop/start), cylinder deactivation and direct-injection (an extremely high-pressure system which is replacing port fuel injection).
Very small engines are being installed in very large vehicles – the output of these little engines boosted by turbochargers, which provide the on-demand power made by larger engines, with a slight MPG uptick when not under boost – but at the cost of more parts (the turbo, intercooler and related parts) that negate the at-the-pump savings of the slight MPG uptick.
Aluminum is being used extensively for body panels (the current Ford F-150 pickup’s body is made entirely of aluminum) to reduce weight, in order to increase MPGs. Which it does – again, slightly – at the cost of more easily damaged and harder to repair/more expensive to repair aluminum bodywork.
Most don’t come close.
The only way to get to 50 MPG will be to get rid of vehicles incapable of getting there – by fining them into nonexistence. The idea seems to be exactly that: Make “noncompliant” vehicles too expensive to buy and most people will stop buying them.
Then the car industry will stop making them.
Which gets us to the vengeful part.
50 MPG-capable hybrids like the Prius don’t sell nearly as well as big trucks like the F-150, which is the best selling vehicle in the United States – and family-sized vehicles like crossover SUVs, which are the best-selling class of vehicles in the United States.
This conflicts with what federal bureaucrats and politicians – like Barack Obama – want. Which seems to be that if the proletariat is allowed to drive at all, it is to be allowed to drive only proletarian-type cars.
Or, electric cars.
The tripling and the doubling-down are also a clever way to make conventional cars – and trucks and SUVs especially – a lot more expensive, in order to make electric cars and trucks seem less so.
EVs are a potential goldmine-at-gunpoint only just beginning to be mined. Their high cost (the least expensive models start around $30,000) can be absorbed only longer and higher payments. Or by perpetual payments, in the form of rent that never ends (leases, one after the other; ride-sharing, etc.)
The twin fatwas also “encourage” the car companies to build more electric cars – even if most people can’t afford them. Because these electric mobility reducers – they don’t go as far and take comparatively forever to recharge – up the CAFE averages.
It is probably not possible to build a full-size pickup or even a crossover SUV that averages even 40 MPG without badly gimping its capabilities/performance or dramatically reducing its size and weight . . . which gets us back to the Prius Prolemobile archetype.
But it is possible to build one electric car for every 30-something MPG crossover SUV (and 20-something MPG truck) and thereby average higher than otherwise, thereby “achieving compliance” with the fatwas.
Of course, the much higher cost of the electric car will be folded into the cost of the non-electric guzzler de gas.
Either way – via fatwa fines or EV cost-shifting – the cost of getting around is going to go up.
How this saves anyone money is a question which seems to never be asked.
Nor the question regarding this business of the government – in Washington or California – decreeing mileage standards in the first place. It is an idea premised on an absurdity. Which is that – absent the fatwas – the malignant car industry would build nothing but “gas guzzlers,” regardless of the market’s preference for more fuel-efficient models.
Except the car industry does build fuel-efficient models – including models like the 50 MPG (and then some) Prius. The problem – from the viewpoint of the fatwa-hurlers – is that trucks like the F-150, damn them, sell better.
And so the car industry continues to build them, too.
The real problem – the one not being discussed, that is – is that fuel (gas) is cheap and so people tend to buy more of it. Well, it’s a problem if you favor Energy Austerity. Not because energy is scarce, mind. But precisely because it is abundant and inexpensive.
The last thing the elites want is abundant, inexpensive energy. It gives the Proles too much freedom, which is expressed in the form of greater mobility – they come and go as they please, damn them! They live in the suburbs and even the country – rather than cramped cities.
They purchase F-150s more so than Priuses.
Which is pretty outrageous.
The president, to his credit, sided with buyers against the federal regulatory apparat – and the dead hand (so to speak) of his predecessor. California’s regulatory apparat is now fighting Trump – to punish the car buying public, as Obama intended.
If the tripling and doubling down go into effect, American car buyers are certain to have fewer and more expensive choices in the years ahead. Many won’t be able to afford the vehicles they want – especially trucks and SUVs.
If they’re even still available.
Their only choice may be hybrids like the Prius – which cost several thousand dollars more than otherwise-equivalent non-hybrid cars.
Or they’ll be “nudged” into electric cars – which use no gas at all and so won’t be subject to any fines. But they will cost you 30-50 percent more to buy than an otherwise-equivalent non-electric car.
But think of all the money you’ll save on gas.
. . .
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