Americans favor 60 mpg government mandate


Americans overwhelmingly favor the federal government making a law that would require automakers to have all the vehicles they sell average 60 miles per gallon.

A new survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America found that almost two-thirds of people were in favor of 60 mpgs. (Automakers could sell some models that got only 20 mpg, for example, if the average of all the models they sold combined worked out to be 60 mpg.)

Right now, we have a federal law phasing in 5 years from now that mandates a 35 mpg average. The reality is automakers are happy with that and can live with it. The technology exists to make 35 mpgs happen pretty easily. But 60 mpgs is a whole different ballgame. We could do it, but it would cost a lot and we’d have to make sure it’s worth doing.

A lot of us choose what to drive based on family size. I have a family of 5. We can’t all fit in my Prius, which is getting 100+ mpg around town thanks to an aftermarket kit I bought on Internet that turned it into a plug-in vehicle. Of course, I know that not everybody wants a car that small.

We have to decide what we’re willing to give up. Should we all have to plug in our cars every night like I do when I get home? (It’s not exactly a burden, but it is a slight aggravation.) Are we willing to deal with cars that are lighter?

One possible compromise is what Toyota and Lexus are experimenting with, which is a button on the dashboard. You decide if you want more fuel economy or more power.

Dave, one of the producers on my HLN TV show, has a Prius with this kind of button. He finds he usually keeps the car in economy mode, except when he’s merging onto the freeway or accelerating when a light turns from red to green.

This is the kind of choice we’ll probably see going forward. You’ll pick and choose how your car will perform.

So 60 mpg may be too much of a stretch by mid-next decade. But we can maybe get close — like 50 mpg — and then people like me with my FrankenPrius at 100 mpg won’t seem so out there.

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