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Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)

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In the United States, vehicle manufacturers are required to maintain an average fuel economy for the fleet of new vehicles they sell each year. Vehicle manufacturers must pay a penalty if their annual vehicle fleet uses too much fuel.

The government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) for 2009 mandates 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and 23.1 mpg for light trucks (includes minivans, vans, most pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles). However because it’s an average fuel economy, in order to sell large cars or trucks that use more fuel the vehicle manufacturer must also sell small cars and trucks that are more fuel-efficient.

CAFE is so important to most vehicle manufacturers that they demand their suppliers develop low rolling resistance tires to be used as Original Equipment on their new vehicles. In order to meet these demands, these tires are often designed with a priority on reducing weight and rolling resistance and are molded with slightly thinner sidewalls, shallower tread depths and use low rolling resistance constructions and tread compounds.

CAFE tests are conducted in a laboratory and not on the highway. Many aspects that affect fuel economy in the real world are reduced to constants incorporated into the formulas specified.

In December 2007, U.S. Congress passed The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that set CAFE standards of both cars and light trucks. This standard raises fuel efficiency requirements during the 2011 through 2020 model years, reaching 35 mpg in 2020 for the total fleet of passenger and non-passenger automobiles.

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