New fuel economy standards: Double the MPG by 2025

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Fuel efficient concept car by Mercedes

If the prices at the pumps are getting you down, there is no immediate relief in sight. But there is some long-term news that may give drivers some optimism.

The Obama administration has finalized new fuel economy rules that will affect new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. over the next 13 years.

The average fuel economy must reach 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025. That’s up from 28.6 mpg at the end of last year.

Analysts say the regulations will bring drastic changes to the cars and trucks in U.S. showrooms. The main goal for the industry will be to cut greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, so as not to be in violation of the new rules.

To meet the standard, automakers will have to introduce new technology to improve gas-powered engines. Although the new vehicles will better the environment, critics say the rules will add thousands to the price of new cars and make them unaffordable for many.

The Obama administration says these changes will save families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs. It also says the rules will bring an average savings of $8,000 over the lifetime of a new vehicle sold in 2025.

According to The Associated Press (AP), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said these standards are the biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Washington has reportedly announced that tailpipe emissions from cars and light trucks will be halved by 2025.

President Barack Obama said the new fuel standards “represent the single most important step” his administration has taken to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

But these standards are vehemently opposed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. This week, his campaign called them extreme and said they would drive up the price of new cars. Romney believes any savings at the pump would be wiped out by the rising costs of vehicles.

AP reports that the gas mileage requirements will be phased in gradually and get tougher starting in 2017. They reportedly build on a 2009 deal between the Obama administration and automakers that committed cars and trucks to average 35.5 mpg by model year 2016.

The news agency goes on to note that in the arcane world of government regulations, the rules don’t mean that cars and trucks will actually average 54.5 mpg in 13 years. It’s actually closer to 40 mpg in real-world driving … And under the complex regulations, dubbed “Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE,” automakers can have lower mileage by using credits for selling natural gas and electric vehicles, changing air conditioning fluid to one that pollutes less, and even for placing louvers on car grilles to improve aerodynamics.

Regardless, many automakers have been experimenting with various devices to boost gas mileage.

According to AP, some bigger vehicle models may disappear by 2025. Dealers could offer more efficient gas-electric hybrids, natural gas vehicles and electric cars. There will also be smaller motors, lighter bodies and more gadgets to save fuel — such as circuits that temporarily shut off engines at traffic lights.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will reportedly enforce the standards. It will calculate the average mileage of cars sold by each automaker. Automakers can be fined if they don’t comply.