On April 30, 2020, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule: Part Two. The final rule is the second part of the SAFE Rule. EPA and NHTSA finalized the first part in September 2019, which included regulatory text under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) stating that any regulation of tailpipe carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from automobiles or automobile fuel economy by a state or local government is expressly and impliedly preempted. The first part also withdrew the waiver for California’s Advanced Clean Cars program. The September 2019 rule is currently in litigation in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and D.C. District Court.
This second part of the SAFE Rule sets the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, under the jurisdiction of NHTSA, and GHG emission standards, under the jurisdiction of EPA, to increase in stringency by 1.5 percent per year above Model Year (MY) 2020 levels for MYs 2021-2026. The standards correspond to approximately a fleet-wide CAFE equivalent of 40.6 miles per gallon (mpg) and emission standard of 199 grams of CO2-e per mile across passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks by MY 2026.
The final standards are lower than the 5 percent annual increase in stringency required under the regulations finalized by the Obama administration in the 2012 rule (the “augural standards”), but more stringent than the zero percent increase above 2020 levels, which was proposed by the agencies as the preferred alternative in the proposed SAFE Rule in August 2018 (“proposed standards”). The final standards apply to light-duty vehicles including passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks sold in the United States and maintain the existing vehicle-footprint-based method for calculating CAFE and emission standards.
The Final Rule becomes effective on June 29, 2020, 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.