ANN ARBOR, MI – The auto industry is working faster than expected and introducing new technologies that had not been foreseen by government regulators when long-term corporate average fuel-economy standards were promulgated in 2012, an Environmental Protection Agency official says.

“Innovations are coming at us faster than originally anticipated,” says Michael Olechiw, director of the EPA’s Light-Duty Vehicle Center here, at a powertrain conference hosted this week by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The event was dedicated to an update of the midterm assessment of CAFE, which will result in a technical report issued by Nov. 15, 2017, and a final determination by April 2018.

CAFE requires each automaker’s sales-weighted fleet, including light trucks, to achieve an average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg (6.6 L/100 km) by 2016 and 54.5 mpg (4.3 L/100 km) by 2025.

As of June, UMTRI reports a 25.5 mpg (9.2 L/100 km) average for all light vehicles sold in the U.S., up 5.4 mpg (2.1 km/L) since October 2007.

Olechiw says nearly 35% of ’14 vehicles in the U.S. already meet the 35.5-mpg standard for ’16. 

Approaches to boost efficiency are widespread, from reducing vehicle and component mass and mitigating friction to downsizing engines and employing more forced induction and direct fuel injection.

“What we are finding is manufacturers are not only bringing technology in faster than we thought they would, they are also bringing different technology to fruition than what we anticipated,” Olechiw says.

UMTRI’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation department tracks U.S. vehicle sales and finds the averages so far are keeping pace with the stepped improvements that must be achieved on the path to 2025.

“CAFE performance has exceeded projections the past two years,” says UMTRI project manager Brandon Schoettle. “The average new-vehicle fuel economy is near a record high.”