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USA: Fuel Efficiency Standard Could Jump-Start Electric Cars

The White House announced last week a significant tightening of future fuel efficiency standards.

Starting with the model year 2025, cars and light trucks will have to get a minimum of 54.5 miles to the gallon (or consume less than 4.3 liters per 100 kilometers.)

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, no currently existing fuel-powered cars come anywhere close to such efficiency. The smart car, for example, with its miniature frame, two seats, cramped luggage space and 1-liter engine, is an efficiency showboat, getting an average combined highway and city rating of 36 mpg (or 6.5L/100 km).

Currently, the only U.S. market-ready cars rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency whose combined efficiency surpasses the ambitious White House goal get at least some of their power from an electrical outlet.

For comparison with fuel-powered cars, electric cars are rated by a “mile per gallon equivalent” formula, or m.p.g.e., which pegs electrical power to fuel use.

This summer two new additions to the small but growing fleet of consumer-ready, affordable electric cars (or EVs) hit the streets in parts of the United States.

In many ways electric cars are still inferior to their gas-powered cousins. Charging the vehicles, especially from a regular home power source, can take hours. Public stations that reduce charging times can be hard to find (try finding an EV-charging station in Montana). And the range of the cars is still pretty limited (try finding an EV charging station in Montana if you can only cover 100 miles). Still, recent EV models might well gain a wider acceptance among the general driving public.

A review of the new Ford Focus Electric credits it for looking like a normal car, despite the fact that it has no tailpipe.

“The Focus Electric looks nearly identical to the gas version, a small ‘Electric’ badge the only clue that internal combustion has been supplanted by swift and silent electric propulsion,” writes Bradley Berman in his review.

Ford claims, among other fun things, that it gets more than 100 m.p.g.e. (equivalent to burning less than 2.3 liters per 100 kilometers). And the E.P.A. gives it an average range of 76 miles, or 122 kilometers.

Honda just announced the Fit EV would be available for limited leases on the West Coast. Like the Ford, the Honda is based on an existing fuel-powered car, giving it the rather staid appearance of a subcompact car.

Honda claims its little car will get 118 m.p.g.e. in ideal conditions.

One of the standard bearers for mass-produced electric cars in the United States is the Nissan Leaf. With a relatively respectable range of 73 miles, or 117 kilometers, the Leaf gets a combined 106 m.p.g.e., according to the E.P.A.



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