The federal government on Thursday issued rules that will eventually boost mileage, reduce fuel consumption by about a third and hasten the next generation of technology-loaded hybrids and electric cars.
The new fuel economy rules might add about $1,000 to the cost of the average new car by 2016, the government said. But officials said those costs will be offset by about $3,000 in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.
The action establishes for the first time a greenhouse gas emissions standard for vehicles, which should reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases by about 30 percent between 2012 and 2016.
"To paraphrase the vice president, this is a really big deal," said Jim Kliesch, an engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists' clean vehicles program.
The changes — jointly written by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency — start with model year 2012 by requiring an auto manufacturer's fleet to have an average fuel economy of 30.1 miles per gallon.
The standard becomes increasingly tougher until model year 2016, when automakers have to reach 35.5 miles per gallon. That's up nearly 10 miles per gallon from current standards.
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