WASHINGTON — Drivers will have to pay more for cars and trucks, but they'll save at the pump under tough new federal rules aimed at boosting mileage, cutting emissions and hastening the next generation of fuel-stingy hybrids and electric cars.
The new standards, announced Thursday, call for a 35.5 miles-per-gallon average within six years, up nearly 10 mpg from now.
By setting national standards for fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, the government hopes to squeeze out more miles per gallon whether you buy a tiny Smart fortwo micro car, a rugged Dodge Ram pickup truck or something in between.
The rules will cost consumers an estimated $434 extra per vehicle in the 2012 model year and $926 per vehicle by 2016, the government said. But the heads of the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency said car owners would save more than $3,000 over the lives of their vehicles through better gas mileage.
The requirements for the 2012-16 model years pleased environmentalists who have criticized sluggish efforts by previous administrations to boost fuel efficiency. They also were welcomed by automakers who have been seeking a single standard after California and a dozen states tried to create their own rules.
The regulations set a goal of achieving by 2016 the equivalent of 35.5 mpg combined for cars and trucks, an increase of nearly 10 mpg over current standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The figure could actually be as low as 34.1 mpg because automakers can receive credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in other ways.
The changes will cost the industry about $52 billion, but the government says the program will provide $240 billion in savings to consumers, mostly through lower fuel consumption. The changes also could help U.S. manufacturers who make advanced vehicles, batteries and engines, the government said.