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Automotive Aluminum Industry Statement on Today’s EPA Determination on Emissions Regs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation announced today their proposed rulemaking for the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles model years 2022-2025.

In response to the release today of proposed fuel economy and emissions standards, following is a statement from Aluminum Association President and CEO, Heidi Brock:

We are reviewing the draft rule in detail and continue to seek an outcome that maintains the competitiveness of U.S.-based suppliers, provides certainty to our automotive customers and ultimately helps produce better performing cars and trucks that consumers want to buy. As to weight and safety, leading auto safety experts agree, size—not weight—is the more influential safety determinant since bigger vehicles provide occupants more crush space in a crash. NHTSA’s assertions in the summary of its rationale (page 14) on lightweighting and safety in the draft rule are not supported by later analysis in the NPRM (page 279) that concedes, “… NHTSA does not consider this conclusion {that mass reduction increases fatalities} to be definitive because of the relatively wide confidence bounds of the estimates.” The NPRM also correctly recognizes (page 279), “Several technologies, such as substitution of light, high-strength materials for conventional materials during vehicle redesigns, have the potential to reduce weight and conserve fuel while maintaining a vehicle’s footprint and maintaining or possibly improving the vehicle’s structural strength and handling.” In fact, NHTSA’s own data, which confirm weight can be reduced safely in more than 95 percent of light trucks and passenger cars to boost MPG, while maintaining or increasing safety. For the remaining 5 percent, those very small passenger cars weighing 3,200 pounds or less, it’s simply not credible to suggest automakers will be forced to lightweight them under any regulatory scenario—and automakers have made no such claims. The insurance industry and the National Academy of Sciences, among many others, are on record confirming the existing standards resolve their prior concerns on lightweighting and safety. Thanks to smart design and lighter, yet highly crash-absorbent materials, from pickups like the Ford’s 5-star crash rated F-150, to passenger cars like Chevrolet’s 5-star crash rated Malibu, there are countless examples of redesigned vehicles on the road today maintaining or increasing their NHTSA safety ratings while shedding hundreds of pounds to boost fuel economy and performance.”     

Data confirming automakers are not planning to reduce vehicle weight of small passenger cars under any regulatory scenario:

Wide-Array of Safety Experts Challenging the Credibility of NHTSA’s Safety/Weight Claims: 

  • Russ Rader, an IIHS spokesman, said that the institute was ‘supportive of the fuel economy standards as implemented. The Obama-era changes to the rules, essentially using a sliding scale for fuel economy improvements by vehicle footprint, addressed safety concerns that IIHS raised in the past.” Bloomberg, February 12, 2018
  • David Zuby, chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said he’s doubtful about the administration’s estimate of lives saved because other factors could affect traffic deaths, such as automakers agreeing to make automatic emergency braking standard on all models before 2022. “They’re making assumptions about stuff that may or may not be the same,” he said. Associated Press, July 31, 2018
  • “The idea that fuel efficiency standards are causing vehicles to be less safe is ludicrous,’’ said Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. “The U.S. auto industry has just experienced its two largest selling years in history, and fuel efficiency is helping. People love their SUVs and pickups, but they love them even more when they save money on gas.’’ Bloomberg, July 27, 2018
  • But that rationale {downweighting is bad for safety} has largely been debunked, said David Greene, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Tennessee and a member of the National Academies fuel economy committee. “The problem with that argument is that it didn’t take into account that all of the light-duty vehicles would be made lighter and the cars weren’t made smaller,” he said. That leads to a simple physics equation — if all cars are lighter, there’s less kinetic energy involved in any crash. Therefore, the force between two vehicles is reduced when they collide. The Obama-era standards incentivize reducing mass in the heaviest of vehicles to reduce the spread between vehicle weights across all classes, said Tom Wenzel, a research scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s energy efficiency standards group. Wenzel’s research has replicated recent NHTSA studies showing that carmakers can reduce mass while maintaining a vehicle’s footprint — the space between four wheels — and cause the same number of deaths, or possibly fewer…We’ve kind of resolved the issue that mass reductions do not inherently increase fatalities.” E&E News, August 1, 2018
  • “The safety argument has two prongs. One is that automakers often achieve increases in fuel efficiency by light-weighting vehicles, which makes them less safe in the event of a crash. The other is that the Obama-era standards would have raised the price of new vehicles, thus encouraging people to keep their older, less safe models. But both prongs have been “largely debunked,” said John German, a senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation. “In the old days, when they talked about lighter vehicles being less safe, it was actually that weight was correlated with size, and the smaller vehicles were correlated with fatalities.” E&E News, July 30, 2018
  • “In 2015, the {National Academy of Science} released a new study that concluded the change to a footprint measurement had satisfied many of its safety concerns.” Bloomberg, February 12, 2018
  • “Suggestions that an easing of the Obama-era standards would reduce fatalities ‘does not seem consistent with the findings of this report,’ said Therese Langer, transportation program director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and a member of the National Academy of Science’s committee that produced the 2015 analysis.” Bloomberg, February 12, 2018
  • “Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, pushed back against the notion that fuel economy standards contributed to traffic deaths, noting that fatalities have declined while fuel economy standards have become more stringent since they first took effect in the 1970’s.’The reason is better technology and design, not the changing weight of vehicles,’ said Becker, whose organization is affiliated with the Center for Auto Safety.” Bloomberg, February 12, 2018
  • “Allow me to be skeptical,” said Giorgio Rizzoni, an engineering professor and director of the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University. “To say that safety is a direct result of somehow freezing the fuel economy mandate for a few years, I think that’s a stretch.” Associated Press, July 31, 2018
  • A 2017 study by researchers from the University of Southern California, Yale University and the University of California at Irvine suggests that weight reductions distributed across the full array of vehicle types available to consumers can reduce fatalities. {Antonio} Bento, who works on vehicle issues with the California Air Resources Board, was skeptical of NHTSA’s {safety} argument. “We have no empirical evidence to that effect,” he said. Bloomberg, July 27, 2018

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About the Aluminum Association

Through its Aluminum Transportation Group, the Aluminum Association communicates the benefits of aluminum in ground transportation applications to help accelerate its penetration through research programs and related outreach activities. The ATG’s mission is to serve member companies and act as a central resource for the automotive and commercial vehicle industries on aluminum issues. Members of the ATG include: Alcoa Inc., Aleris, Arconic, Constellium, Hydro, Kaiser Aluminum, Novelis Inc., Rio Tinto and Tri-Arrows Aluminum. Visit us online at, and follow us on Twitter @DriveAluminum.


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