Report encourages development, production of alternative-fuel vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a report on the implementation of the Alternative Motor Fuels Act of 1988 (AMFA), which encourages development and use of methanol, ethanol, and natural gas, and promotes the production of alternative-fuel vehicles. NHTSA also proposed extending the program through model year 2008.

AMFA provides procedures for calculating the fuel economy of “dual-fueled” vehicles for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) compliance purposes. The Act directed NHTSA, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, to evaluate the dual-fueled vehicle incentive program and provide a report to Congress with a preliminary conclusion on whether to extend the program beyond the 2004 model year.

The report concludes that this CAFE credit program has been successful in stimulating a significant increase in availability of alternative-fuel vehicles, with more than a million of these vehicles — primarily flexible fuel vehicles that can run on gasoline and on a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline (E85) — on the road. However, due to lagging development of the alternative-fuel infrastructure and the cost of E85, most dual-fuel vehicles rarely operate on alternative fuel.

NHTSA also issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to extend availability of the CAFE credit incentive for dual-fueled vehicles for four years, through the end of the 2008 model year. The Act specifies that a decision on extending the program for four years must be made at this time. NHTSA gave these reasons for its proposed extension of the credit incentive:

  • Vehicles affected by the program can operate on a blend of 85% ethanol, a domestic fuel whose increased use can decrease reliance on foreign petroleum.

  • It would give Congress, federal agencies, regional authorities, and the private sector ample time to identify, adopt, and implement efforts to enhance the alternative-fuel infrastructure.

  • Vehicle manufacturers would not likely maintain their level of alternative-fuel vehicle production without the incentive program and would decrease the potential energy security benefit of having a fleet of vehicles that can operate on alternative fuels.

  • Energy benefits will only be realized through extension of the incentive policy if other incentives, programs, or market conditions stimulate the production, distribution, and use of alternative fuels over the next four years.

Comments on the NPRM will be accepted for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. Submit comments in writing to Docket Management, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh St SW, Washington DC 20590 or submit them electronically by logging onto http://dms.dot.gov/.

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