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The United States continues to lag far behind the rest of the world in fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, according to a new report released this week by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

However, the US is poised to make large strides: A Senate bill to increase mileage standards to 35 MPG now pending in House of Representatives would put the US ahead of Canada, Australia, and South Korea by 2020.

The ICCT report, “Passenger Vehicle Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Economy Standards: A Global Update,” is a technical comparison of vehicle standards in eight major countries, states and regions.

U.S. passenger vehicle fuel economy standards lag behind most other industrialized nations even after accounting for regulatory actions to increase federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks under taken last year.


Some key findings from the report:

  • Japan and Europe continue to lead the world with the most stringent passenger vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards.
  • However, over the last three years Japan has increased the stringency of its fuel economy standards, while Europe is in the process of weakening its CO2 standards
  • Japan’s standards are expected to lead to the lowest fleet average greenhouse gas emissions for new passenger vehicles in the world (125 g CO2/km) in 2015.
  • California passenger vehicle GHG regulations are expected to achieve the greatest overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the world over the course of its seven-year implementation period.


  • Canada has established the world’s only active “feebate” program with significant incentives and levies for vehicles based on fuel consumption. At the same time, Canada plans to issue an attribute-based fuel economy regulation this fall to take effect in 2011, while it continues to implement its voluntary agreement with automakers.
  • The Chinese government warrants significant notice for reforming the passenger vehicle excise tax to encourage the production and purchase of smaller-engine vehicles, and to eliminate the preferential tax rate that applied to sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
  • South Korea is the only nation in the world with fuel economy standards for new passenger cars that are projected to decline over the next five years. The South Korean government is considering policy options to address the negative trend.

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