Last week, the Department of Transportation together with the Environmental Protection Agency officially announced that a new federal regulation was in place to change mile per gallon (MPG) minimums for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured in the United States by the deadline of their 2025 model year. As the New York Times points out, right now the only way that a car or pick-up could make that goal is if they combined gas and electricity as fuel sources.
To read the final rule as it will appear in the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) go here.
These standards were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the EPA with input from various interests including not only the manufacturers themselves but also the United Auto Workers and public interest groups as well as experts in related fields including both energy (oil and gas) and environmental protection matters. The big car makers have announced their support of the new rule.
President Obama first announced the proposed standard in July 2011, and between then and now, the new MPG minimum was agreed by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo. These auto manufacturers are already in the process of changing the way motor vehicles run and work as well, in view of these new standards, building things like:
- electric vehicles;
- plug-in hybrid electric vehicles;
- fuel cells vehicles;
- hybrid technologies for large pickups and for other technologies that achieve high fuel economy levels on large pickups; and
- natural gas vehicles.
Of course, the federal agencies are pointing to this new federal regulation as being a means of not only helping the environment (less emissions, etc.) but also saving money at the pump and reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. Those are all worthy goals. For those who deal with personal injury lawsuits every day, however, the news that big new designs are being developed — new kinds of fuel engines, etc. — unavoidably bring to mind the harsh reality that with new products come the inevitable concerns of both defective products as well as faulty design, all of which can result in serious personal injury and wrongful death.
It is the tragic reality that these new kinds of vehicles, who operate in new and innovative ways, will bring with them the potential for flaws and quirks which may result in harm. Especially if these car makers, known for their profit motivations, are in a hurry to beat their competitors to the market with new technologies. Let’s hope that the manufacturers produce shiny, smart, and savvy vehicles to meet this new standard. That would be best. However, given the current pattern of product recalls of American motor vehicles today (NHTSA issues a monthly report), based upon the standard combustion engine, well. Enough said.