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Conservation Programs Relating to Automobiles

Energy consumption by motor vehicles is a vexing issue across the world.  Fuel usage in automobiles is the relationship between distance traveled by an automobile and the amount of fuel consumed.  The U.S. has adopted several automobile energy conservation programs to reduce fuel consumption through automobiles.

The term automobile means “a 4-wheeled vehicle that is propelled by fuel, or by alternative fuel, manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways and rated at less than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight[i].”

The Automobile Fuel Economy Act established the average fuel economy standard for passenger automobiles.  Average fuel economy standard means “a performance standard specifying a minimum level of average fuel economy applicable to a manufacturer in a model year[ii].”

The Secretary of transportation determines the maximum feasible average fuel economy.  In order to determine average fuel economy, the Secretary of transportation considers technological feasibility, economic practicability, the effect of other motor vehicle standards of the government on fuel economy, and the need to conserve energy.  However, a small manufacturer is entitled to make application for an exemption from the fuel economy standard for a model year[iii].

The President prescribes regulations that require passenger automobiles leased for at least sixty consecutive days or bought by executive agencies in a fiscal year to achieve a fleet average fuel economy for that year.  Fleet average fuel economy is the total number of passenger automobiles leased for at least sixty consecutive days or bought by executive agencies in a fiscal year; divided by the sum of the fractions obtained by dividing the number of automobiles of each model leased or bought by the fuel economy of that model[iv].

The Act prescribes for certain labeling requirements for automobiles.  A violation of the requirements is a violation of the Automobile Information Disclosure Act and an unfair or deceptive act under the Federal Trade Commission Act.  However, a label does not establish a warranty under federal or state law[v].

A manufacturer of an automobile must report to the Secretary of Transportation:

  • whether s/he complied with an applicable average fuel economy standard for the model year for which the report is made; and
  • whether the actions the manufacturer has taken or intends to take to comply with the standard.


The Secretary of transportation has the power to[vi]:

  • inspect and copy records of any person at reasonable times;
  • order a person to file written reports or answers to specific questions, including under oath; and
  • conduct hearings, administer oaths, take testimony, and subpoena witnesses and records.


The secretary is entitled to disclose the information obtained, without any damage to others.

A person violating standard requirements is liable to the U.S. government for a civil penalty of not more than $ 10,000 for each violation.  A separate violation occurs for each day the violation continues[vii].  When penalties are not paid, they can be collected by a civil action.

Additionally, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides for alternative fuel consumption.  The Act established programs to improve technologies for the commercialization of combination hybrid/flexible fuel vehicles, or plug-in vehicles[viii].

[i] 49 USCS § 32901.

[ii] Id.

[iii] 49 USCS § 32902.

[iv] 49 USCS § 32917.

[v] 49 USCS § 32908.

[vi] 49 USCS § 32907.

[vii] 49 USCS § 32912.

[viii] 42 USCS § 16051.

Inside Conservation Programs Relating to Automobiles