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March 12,  2002

NHTSA Issues Report on Dual-Fuel Vehicle Economy, Proposes Extension Of Program to Model Year 2008



(SafetyAlerts) - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released a proposal on the implementation of the Alternative Motor Fuels Act of 1988 (AMFA), which encourages the development and use of methanol, ethanol and natural gas, and promotes the production of alternative fuel vehicles. NHTSA also proposed extending the program through Model Year 2008.

AMFA provides special procedures for calculating the fuel economy of ?dual-fueled? vehicles for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) compliance purposes, which substantially increase the calculated fuel economy values for these vehicles, providing a production incentive for manufacturers. The Act directed NHTSA (in consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE)) to evaluate the dual-fueled vehicle incentive program and provide a report to Congress with a preliminary conclusion on whether to extend the program beyond the 2004 model year.

The report concludes that the AMFA CAFE credit program has been successful in stimulating a significant increase in the availability of alternative fuel vehicles, with well over a million of these vehicles ? primarily flexible fuel vehicles that can run on gasoline and on a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline (E85) ? currently on the road. However, due to the lagging development of the alternative fuel infrastructure and the cost of E85, the vast majority of dual-fuel vehicles rarely operate on alternative fuel.

?Even if relatively few of these vehicles are currently being operated on E85, having a fleet of vehicles that can be operated on non-petroleum fuels is still valuable because it contributes to domestic energy security, encourages an increase in the number of E85 refueling sites, and provides consumers an alternative if there are gas shortages or gas prices increase significantly,? said Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, NHTSA Administrator.

Given the mixed results of the program to date, the report concludes that it would be prudent for federal agencies, Congress, industry, and other interested stakeholders to identify additional programs and authorities that could contribute to expanding the infrastructure and achieving greater use of alternative fuels in dual-fuel vehicles that receive the CAFE credit.

In a second action, NHTSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to extend the availability of the CAFE credit incentive for dual-fueled vehicles for four years, through the end of the 2008 model year. The Act specifies that a decision on extending the program for four years must be made at this time.

NHTSA gave these reasons for its proposed four-year extension of the CAFE credit incentive:

The vehicles affected by the program can operate on a blend of 85 percent ethanol, a domestic fuel, whose increased use can decrease our reliance on foreign petroleum.

It would give Congress, other executive branch agencies, regional authorities, and the private sector ample time to identify, adopt and implement efforts to enhance the alternative fuel infrastructure.

Vehicle manufacturers would not likely maintain their current level of efforts to produce alternative fuel vehicles in the absence of the incentive program and would decrease the potential energy security benefit of having a fleet of vehicles that can operate on alternative fuels.

Energy benefits will only be realized through the extension of the incentive policy if other incentives, programs, or market conditions stimulate the production, distribution, and use of alternative fuels over the next four years.

Comments on the NPRM will be accepted for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. Submit comments in writing to: Docket Management, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC, 20590. Alternatively, submit comments electronically by logging onto the Docket Management System website at Click on "Help & Information" or "Help/Info" to view instructions for filing. Regardless of the method used, those who comment should mention Docket No. NHTSA-2001-10774, Notice 2.

Source: PRNewswire

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