What the New Fuel Economy Standards Could Mean for Future Truck Buyers

What the New Fuel Economy Standards Could Mean for Future Truck Buyers

Today, President Barack Obama officially announced a new federal policy to raise the mandated average gas mileage of cars and trucks, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By 2016, the fleet fuel efficiency standard for all passenger cars will be 39 mpg, and it will be 30 mpg for light trucks and sport utility vehicles. The average of these two equals a passenger-car and light-truck fuel efficiency standard of 35.5 mpg.

So what does this mean for future pickup truck buyers? It depends.

What's still to be determined are the exact rules that will have to be followed to determine fuel economy. First, it's unclear whether manufacturers will have to hit fleet-wide or segment-based goals for their vehicles. Fleet-wide goals would make it more difficult for manufacturers to meet the fuel economy standards if they have a narrow choice of vehicles in their fleet (think Porsche versus Toyota). Second, it hasn't been decided if fuel economy will be based strictly on a vehicle's "footprint," meaning its physical dimensions, or whether another set of "attributes" will be used, such as weight or personal- or commercial-use-only designations.

Still, there are a few things we can start to make educated assumptions about to build a picture of what the pickup truck of 2016 will be like.

Current light-truck fuel economy standards are 23.1 mpg for all SUVs, pickups, vans and crossovers. Hitting 30 mpg will require a 30 percent rise in fuel efficiency. A 2009 Chevrolet Silverado with two-wheel drive has a combined 17 mpg rating. That same Silverado would have to achieve approximately 22.1 mpg combined by 2016, an increase of about 5 mpg.

This means we're likely to see an increase in the number of direct-injection turbocharged gasoline engines in the next few years, and the phase-out of traditional naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engines.

This also increases the odds you'll buy a truck with a hybrid powertrain. The two-wheel-drive 2009 Chevrolet Silverado 2-Mode Hybrid with its 6.0-liter V-8 is rated at 21/22 mpg city/highway today. Combine the Silverado's batteries and electric motors with a direct-injection turbo gas mill, and you're likely well over 22 mpg combined.

What doesn't look like a good option to hit 2016 mileage requirements are diesel engines in light-duty pickups. In fact, this probably means light-duty diesel pickups will never arrive.

The Obama administration has tasked the EPA with determining a grams-per-mile limit on CO2 emissions for vehicles that fall approximately near the mileage requirements. According to a white paper released by the EPA and Department of Transportation today, those limits will be an average of 250 g/mile for all cars and trucks. However, diesel's CO2 emissions per gallon of fuel (22.4 pounds) are higher than that of gasoline (19.4). A diesel-powered light-duty pickup would have to be about 15 percent more efficient than a gas-powered truck to meet both fuel economy standards and CO2 emission standards. A pickup averaging a combined 22 mpg with a gas engine would have to get about 25.3 mpg if it were a diesel.

This doesn't mean the end of diesel pickup trucks, though, at least not any time soon. A government source told us the new regulations will not cover heavy-duty pickup trucks that fall in the 8,500-10,000 pound range. HD pickups are expected to continue to be excluded from CAFE consideration. Perhaps a side effect will be increased sales and market share of HD pickups relative to light-duty pickups, as buyers who need to tow and haul in ranges that a light-duty pickup truck can manage today move up to HD. 

The truck of the future is also likely to be much more aerodynamic. Tough-truck looks are likely to disappear to get the best fuel economy possible. We could also see substantial use of composite materials to save weight to improve mileage.

One other factor not discussed in today's fuel economy standards announcements: Tougher crash-test regulations expected in the near future. Pickup trucks are going to have to support stronger roof-crush and side-impact tests that are likely going to require new reinforcements added to their body structures to pass the tests. This will mean more weight. Perhaps all the weight removed for better fuel economy will be replaced by heavier, stronger frames.

There is one certainty in all this: The truck you buy will cost more in the future. The standards are expected to add at least $1,300 on average to the cost of building a vehicle. Obama said drivers would make that back within three years due to savings on gas.

$50,000 plug-in hybrid pickup, anyone?


obama is an idiot...making automakers do stuff wont help the economy...if there wasnt any mileage restrictions then the automakers would do what they want...and if their products wouldnt sell then theyd make em better

Welcome to utopia comrades. We're well protected now. What they COULD have done was give those billions of dollars they whizzed down a rathole in bailout dollars to citizens to buy fuel efficient cars in the form of a certificate redeemable only on high efficient models. But no. Why? Because that would enable free choice. They wanted regulation. They want to take your choice away. We're ruined.

Consider the example of the Mahindra 4x4 diesel pickup. With EPA combined mpg likely to be in the mid 20s, it's close to meeting the 2016 CAFE number already. There's a future for small diesels in pickups. The question is whether USA manufacturers will recognize this in time.

You know I'm a centrist at heart with Socialist tendencies when it comes to large groups and more conservative capitalist when it comes to individual rights. That said, I hate 66% of everything Obama does. This is right up there with taking citizens guns away. There's no need for a minimum CAFE fleet rating. Just gas guzzler tax them and raise the tax as necessary. But don't tell me what I can and can not purchase. Secondly since when is CO2 bad? Thank you to all you liberals now we all have to drink some of the Obama Kool-aid. What's next mandating tinfoil be designed into all ballcaps?

I agree with gas guzzler tax on the wanna be trucks, get the soccer moms back into the station wagons, leave trucks as work trucks. Get rid of all this fancy crap ass suvs, mini vans, cross overs. A truck should be truck, that way those whose trucks work for a living are not penalized by soccer mom set and their breeder buses.

What a bunch of crap, This is going to hurt the automakers, at least to do it in seven years. That means every car and truck is going to basically be rebuilt from scratch, in the next few years. Its impossible to do when most cars fall into a four or five year product cycle. Besides that its socialistic, let people choose efficiancy if they want it but don't mandate what people drive.

Wait for the double wammy, the huge gas tax hike coming to a station near you.

Last year, when gas consumption tanked due to $4 a gallon, the vultures in DC were already talking about "lost revenue".

Less gas consumption = less revenue to Comrade Sam. Comrade Obama won't let that happen, so bring on the higher Comrade Gas Tax.

Everything will cost more, the trucks and the gas. EVERYTHING.


Great. Now the cars and trucks will cost even more in an already overpriced segmant. The auto makers are hurting as it is, now they will have to use millions and redesign everything from the ground up. Put more money into new engine development. The main reason i havn't bought a new vehicle is because i cant afford it. And with all the new crap they put on trucks it a wonder they're still called trucks. What happened to the old simple workhorse? The 80's HD pickups didn't need heated seats, tv's, ect. to get the job done. Wonder why they cost so much now??

Sarah Palin in 2012

35mpg is the figure by the new Jaguar/Ford 3-litre diesel V6 with 600 Nm of torque and some 275 hp. A good engine for F- 150 I think

Seriously we put a man on the moon over 40 yrs ago but we cannot get 30 mpgs on a truck. Automanufacturers could have done this years ago. The major oil companies and the auto industry might be sleeping in the same bed. Maybe some secret handshakes. Yes as noted earlier the bailout money given to major lenders was also a joke. I am still waiting for my bailout.

More regulations and limits. When will this stop? What is happening in this country? What's next? Regulating prices on products? This is called socialism. I am all for better fuel economy but at what cost? Like other reviewers said cars are expensive as it is, we can't afford to pay even more for them. In fact, I don't agree with Obama's statement that we would save on gas over the course of 3 years. We won't. Otherwise, everyone would be buying hybrids today.

There could be one positive to this:
Toyota could greenlight the ABAT!

I just love all the paranoia about over regulation and all of the socialistic rhetoric. A certain amount of government regulation on big banks and big business would of limited the size of the current economic collapse.
There should of been higher fuel economy standards set years ago before fuel prices climbed so high. Exxon made record high profits last year. We seem to be forgeting that George Dubbya himself owns an oil company.
We should be planning ahead as opposed to reacting to things after the fact. I see the arguement that one should let the market decide ie. if a product is hard on fuel don't buy it.
The Detroit Big 3 got caught with their pants around their ankles last year with high fuel prices. We should be driving what we need as opposed to what we want. We all wanted big rigs with big motors. We didn't need them but we bought them anyway.
A 1,300 dollar premium on a vehicle that will pay you back that money in 3 years make sense. Diesel pickups used to have an average 60,000 mile payback but now there is no cost recovery.
I don't like the hybrid trucks because their payback will come around the time you'll need to replace the truck or the batteries.

So if we leave it to consumers to regulate the types of vehicles the big three put out by sales, then GM, Ford and Chrysler will come out with the vehicles that people want. That sounds like a great idea as long as they don't go bankrupt. Oh, wait thats what just happened!

The car companies did build the cars people wanted and they made bundles off of the SUV and Truck boom in the late 90's and early 2000's. The problem is they wern't prepared for skyrocketing fuel prices and they had let their small cars fall by the wayside and had nothing to sell, diversification is key.

The Govt needs to be the leader, by incentives, in a "comprehensive energy policy", that includes, in small part, more fuel efficient vehicles. Overall power generation, industrial consumption/exhaust are as important as the 1 item of car/truck efficiencies. Govt needs to stay out of capitalism & instead, incentivise producers (me & you) to help produce "better" products without mandates. errr...

If I wanna drive a truck that gets 12 MPG than dammit, I should be able to. I don't think I should have to pay the government to drive it (above state tax), I should pay the dealer. Global warming and all this crap is nothing but a money maker for big business's and the Gov. More pollution goes in the air to making a hybrid than the car can ever make up for in its entire life on the road(its better for the environment to by a 4cyl.). You wanna drive a small little smart car that gets 50 MPG, good for you. Just stay outta my way, lol.

Hey Mike Levine, Do you this this 2012 F-150 will have the Coyote 5.0L Engine? Thanks....

@Ryan: Yep.

I don't understand how you say that the Silverado would go from 17 to 22. mpg by 2016 if the standard for trucks is going to be 30 mpg.

Maybe so, maybe not...

According to Michelle Krebs at AutoObserver.com:

"The new 35.5 mpg by 2016 standard announced by President Obama translates to about 26 miles per gallon.
...In fact, according to Edmunds.com's analysis, 29 car models and 36 truck models already achieve the new standard, and about a third of the cars and half of the trucks are produced by a domestic automaker."

Hey, why not really improve our light trucks and mandate that they must get 100 MPG CAFE? Why not? It's so easy for the government to do this. Of course we will have to build little two cylinder three-wheeled trucks with a small utility bed in the back. I'm sure that they have these in China right now! Oops... that could be a problem. Since the Chinese have already perfected these, I guess that we would have to import them from China.

Hey Mike Levine, When will they show this 2012 F-150 Truck at the Auto Show? Thanks...

I find it sad that with the research I have done anyone can make a full size truck with a V8 (fuel injected or not) get upper 20's to low 30's MPG. I don't even to build a hybrid to make it happen either. One of these days I will have to build it!

Lets have these standards for cars, but don't get rid of trucks. I miss the old tough trucks with box bodies. Perhaps I will buy an old truck and keep it alive forever. I am tired of socialism. I wish Ron Paul were President; Oh well Obama is the chosen President, what can you do.

I have to agree with pickup trucks becomimg more aerodynamic to achieve better fuel efficiency.

Why wait till 2016. How about up to a 20% increase in fuel efficiency for the pickup truck today.

Install an Aerolid over the bed of your pickup truck.

What happend to the Redneck Country Boys like me who built the 100 MPG devices connected to their carburator for extreme fuel efficiency for their 1980 pickup trucks in Arkansas and Mississippi, And major automobile manufactures with government suport bought the rights and everything to stop the American people from having fuel efficient vehickles that would actualy last a lifetime?

They got 100 MPG+ in 1980! They were threatened and forced to sell! There is now a 150+ MPG Car and you hear nothing about it because it has a carburator.

The modern fuel injection engion will be useless if an Electromagnetic Pulse goes off from nuculear explosion. EMP does not affect the carburators installed on engions. Controll of american citizens is why we have fuel injection engions in my opinion. Get rid of all electronic ignitions, GPS, etc, and computers from pickup trucks. I read lately that future pickup trucks will be front wheel drive. This is not usable on the farm and ranch and we need to pull trailers with springs not baloons. I drove a semi truck for 21 years and we had major problems with air bags expecialy the price to replace them. Air bags are good for long runs! A friend of mine at a major puckup truck manufactor said his manufacture does not care about what the country boy wants because their market is being aimed at city people with sales of twenty five to fifty thousand dollars per truck. He also said manufactures are going to stop building standard pickup trucks, SUV and Cars. Due to the dumbing down of American Citizens.

Glad some people love spending time and $$$ @ the gas station, to each their own. For years whenever I've gone to S. American and driven these toyota 4wd trucks that get 35-40 mpg and have great torque for such a small truck I've wanted one. If you don't tow a lot, 4 cylinder diesel's are great options. Personally I've long been disappointed to not have 1/2 ton diesel's in the US.

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