Stricter vehicle and fuel standards in the US

On 3 March the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalised new Tier 3 emission standards for cars and petrol, that once fully in place will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children.

The Tier 3 vehicle emission standards are to be phased in gradually from 2017 to 2025, and combined with the stricter petrol sulphur limit (10 ppm from 2017), they will reduce motor vehicle emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO) and air toxics, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene.

Compared to current standards, the new tailpipe standards for light-duty vehicles represent an 80-per-cent reduction in VOCs and NOx from today’s fleet average and a 70-per-cent reduction in per-vehicle PM standards. Fuel vapour emissions are to be virtually eliminated. For heavy-duty vehicles, the new standards mean a 60-per-cent reduction in fleet average VOCs and NOx emissions, and per-vehicle PM standards. 

The vehicle emissions standards are fuel-neutral, i.e. they are applicable regardless of the type of fuel that the vehicle is designed to use. The period the standards apply is extended from 120,000 miles to 150,000 miles.

The EPA estimates that by 2030 the total health-related benefits will be between US$6.7 and 19 billion annually, providing up to 13 dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards. The vehicle standards are calculated to have an average cost of about US$72 per vehicle in 2025.

The Tier 3 standards are to be implemented over the same timeframe as the national programme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. Actions to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases from these vehicles will, according to the EPA, result in average fuel savings of more than US$8,000 by 2025 over a vehicle’s lifetime, and between 2012 and 2025 they are projected to save American families more than US$1.7 trillion in fuel costs.

Source: US EPA press release, 3 March 2014

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