Heavy-Duty Pickup Prices Could Increase Nearly $15,000 to Meet MPG Standards

Heavy-Duty Pickup Prices Could Increase Nearly $15000 to Meet MPG Standards
By Larry Edsall for PickupTrucks.com

According to a 414-page report from The National Academies: Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine, new federal regulations aimed at increasing fuel economy and reducing emissions could add as little as a few bucks or as much as several thousand dollars to the price of your next new HD pickup.

How much? Nearly $15,000 per vehicle isn't out of the question.

"There is no question that using new technologies to meet federal fuel economy targets will be necessary and many of these technologies have the potential to add significant cost to new vehicles," said Charlie Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a Washington, D.C.-based organization comprising a dozen automakers.

"Costs will depend on the specific fuel economy targets and the cost of the technology that needs to be added," explained Territo.

"At the end of the day, what remains to be seen is whether or not consumers will be willing to pay those costs," said Territo. "This is a very challenging economic time and we need to insure that the costs of new technology are in line with what consumers can afford to pay."

Whether someone operates a fleet or vehicles or owns a single HD work truck, the vehicle owner has an option, as Territo put it, "to buy a new vehicle or to hold onto a current vehicle longer."

And, Territo added, "There is no benefit if these vehicles aren’t on the road."

In May, President Barack Obama called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation to include work trucks – medium- and heavy-duty vehicles – under the fuel economy and emissions umbrella that already spans passenger cars and light-duty trucks.

The EPA and DOT have responded and sent the administration a draft of the proposed regulations covering medium- and heavy-duty vehicles for model years 2014 -2018. Those proposed standards have not been released, but they could be available this fall and are expected to be announced in their final form next summer.

The new regulations could add as little as a few bucks or as much as several thousand dollars to the price of your next new HD pickup, according to a report from the National Academies.

(Note: What the automakers may label as "heavy-duty" trucks are considered medium duty by the feds and the National Academies, so don’t think you escape under some technicality of language. Your 2016 Ford F-250 Super Duty or Chevy Silverado HD or Ram 3500 is included in the new regulations.)

The report was prepared by the Academies' committee to assess fuel economy technologies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and by its board on energy and environmental systems. The committee was made up of academics, consultants, folks from the national laboratories and even a representative of Southeastern Freight Lines. Board members included academics as well as representatives of Dow Chemical, Delphi, an investment bank, assorted consultants and retirees from Honeywell, ExxonMobil and Chrysler.

The report covers medium- and heavy-duty vehicles ranging from contractors’ pickups and delivery vehicles to garbage trucks, semis and buses.

Cost Table

In the section that deals with pickup trucks and vans (Class 2b), the report notes that "vehicles with up to 10,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight used for personal transportation are classified as medium-duty passenger vehicles and are subject to light-duty vehicle legislation." It also notes that the “typical application" for Class 2b is “an urban delivery vehicle or a work vehicle for a small contractor.” In other words, your typical HD pickup.

"Fuel consumption can be reduced through vehicle modifications and systematic incorporation of advanced technologies into the powertrain," the report says. "Engine fuel consumption can be reduced by either applying advanced technologies to the spark ignition engine or substituting a diesel engine for the spark ignition engine."

Because of the typically low annual miles traveled by such vehicles, "the highest potential for reducing fuel consumption will reside with engine improvements, hybridization and transmission improvements," the report says.

The report's focus is on technical and mechanical solutions and includes several categories of enhancement. The least expensive is bumping the cost of each truck by $10 to put it on low-rolling-resistance tires, which in most instances would improve fuel economy by 2 percent, the report says. Or, for $100 per vehicle, aerodynamics could be enhanced, resulting in a 3 percent bump in fuel economy.

Interestingly enough, reducing vehicle curb weight by 300 pounds would produce less than 1 percent in fuel savings but would add $800 to the vehicle purchase price, the report says.

Switching from a four-speed to a six- or eight-speed transmission would improve fuel economy by 7 percent– for a cost of $1,000 per truck.

Opt for a parallel hybrid powertrain, and you get an 18 percent boost in fuel economy, though for a cost of $9,000 per vehicle. Going hybrid also adds 300 pounds to the vehicle’s weight, so you’d have to find some other way – at a cost of $600 per vehicle – to remove enough stuff to negate that added weight.

Another option is going from unleaded gasoline to diesel power. The result is a 19 to 24 percent improvement in fuel economy at a cost between $8,000 and $9,000 per vehicle.

The most effective way to increase fuel economy – and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time – is to make changes to the engine. Applying variable valve timing or variable valve lift technology to your typical gasoline-powered V-8 reduces fuel use by 1 to 3 percent at a cost of $120 to $750. Cylinder deactivation reduces fuel use 2 to 3 percent and costs only $75 per truck. Direct injection technology reduces fuel use 2 to 3 percent at a cost of $550 to $950 per truck.

The biggest payoff comes from turbocharging, downsizing and using lean-burn technology, similar to Ford’s EcoBoost engines. A 5.8-liter turbo gasoline engine can produce a 23 percent savings in fuel use. The cost is $4,000, less than half the price of a hybrid.

Do all of the non-diesel changes above, and your 2015-2020 package produces a 44.5 percent fuel savings over today’s HD pickups, at a total cost of $14,710 per vehicle, the report says.

Of course, the report also notes that instead of requiring any complex technical changes to the vehicles themselves, the government could simply reduce fuel consumption by significantly increasing the cost of fuel through higher taxes.


The breakdown of pricing is fairly realistic, this is obviously over a base gas engine. The hybrid system is pretty expensive, but it would have to be a heavy duty beast of a system.

It is simple physics, it takes a certain amount of energy to move a heavy, un-aerodynamic truck. There are only a certain amount of efficiency to be gained and the hybrid system doesn't have tremendous gains on the highway. IMO, the best you'll ever see with an HD diesel truck with all the advances in the world is 25 mpg, which is probably well below EPA targets.

the funny part is that the screwed up auto companies in the US are too greedy and refuse to bring the small diesel engine (http://www.corsautility.co.za

the funny part is that the screwed up auto companies in the US are too greedy and refuse to bring the small diesel engine < 3L) to the US...

Its true, Toyota, Isuzu, Nissan as well as Ford and GM has been selling diesel powered trucks (that get good gas milage) for years, everywhere but in north america.

this article is full of crud.... 15k? yeah right all they have to do is start importing to the US vehicles they already make but the companies are too lazy and cheap to do this. besides why would they bring affordable trucks (they already make) to the US when they can sell the bloated ones here that get horrible gas mileage to some fool for 40k+?

these companies arent stupid they got the best deal there is... why sell good fuel efficient truck here for 30K at a low margin when they can throw together some bloated truck thats inefficient and costs 10k or so to build and turn around and sell it here for 40k?

These new emissions standards are killing our trucks.

I have a 1990 Chevy C1500 with a 5.7L 350 V8. All I need is the truck to make it to its 25th birthday and I can give the emissions test the middle finger along with a lot of hydrocarbons from my 350 burning oil in the #1 cylinder. (The 350 still runs strong regardless.)

@ Steve - it has everything to do with the 25% chicken tax.
The double edged sword of protectionism is what got the auto industry lazy and complacent.
Protectionism encouraged the UAW to get greedy.
No worries.
Why compete when Uncle Sam will protect our lazy, fat corporate asses from the rest of the world?

And when those lazy, fat corporate asses killed the golden goose – they got saved by government.
No worries.
It’s only money after all, and many people seem to think that governments (through taxes and debt) have lots of it to throw around.
I don’t see much incentive for them to compete even now.
No worries.
The lazy, fat corporate asses walked away from their creditors and the government picked up the rest of the tab.
I don’t see much incentive for them to compete even now.

Do you think the owners of GM (US Government and UAW) or Chrysler (Fiat, UAW, US Government) would want open competition?

They would die if the chicken tax was repealed.

Ford saw the gravy train coming to the end of the line and tried to step off the train.
They have the right idea – global markets = global platforms.
I doubt they would survive the current recession with an open market.

Get used to the news section of this site showing small trucks that we probably will never see.

Get used to the idea of 80,000 dollar HD trucks.

All this talk about the HD going up in price is junk. I need one to be able to take my grandkids camping and my wife and I use for camping on our own. The new diesels are the way to go. We should go across the board with them. Talking about not having the oil, we have more oil under the ground than the middle eastern countries. The tree huggers won't let us drill for it. Come on people get the clowns out of
Washington and let us live. As for as the C02 they keep talking about, what about the plants. They need this to live themselves. It's a trade off people!!!!!!

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