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Detroit goes green? Carmakers must average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025

Automakers must improve their mileage every year, up to a fleet-wide average of 54.5 mpg in 14 years. Green groups praise the new regulations, while opponents call them job-killers.

By Staff writer / July 27, 2011

This 2010 file photo shows a Nissan Leaf in a New York dealership. New mileage requirements have automakers protesting that they will have to shift focus to hybrids and electric cars. Supporters say these regulations are an important step toward cleaner air and energy independence.

Frank Franklin II / AP / File

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The White House and automakers are expected to formally announce Friday a new agreement to raise auto mileage standards annually until they reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, according to groups briefed on details of the changes.

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In April, automakers and the Obama administration finalized the first increases in vehicle fuel economy standards in two decades – a rule that hiked fleet mileage to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2015. The next month, they agreed, in principle, to take the next step. That rule – expected to be finalized a year from now – would set standards to apply to vehicles built between 2016 and 2025.

Officials at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers were not commenting on the deal. Environmentalists briefed today on the deal outlines were cautiously optimistic.

"What we're hearing today sounds like a very positive development," says Michelle Robinson, clean vehicles program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. "We think the technology exists to save even more fuel and reduce pollution. But overall, we're pleased at the direction this is taking."

The new standards represent a compromise for environmentalists, who had pushed for standards to be raised to 62 mpg by 2025. Automakers initially responded that 45 mpg was the highest they could go, saying the tougher standards would hammer profits and require building mainly electric and hybrid vehicles.

The administration and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) are required under the 2007 energy act to develop standards for 2025. The auto industry joined the discussions, eager to attain a single national standard agreed to by California – thereby eliminating the possibility of state-by-state standards – and to better coordinate drive-train development.

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