Sipping Fuel and Saving Lives: Increasing Fuel Economy Without Sacrificing Safety
The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) seeks to dramatically reduce
conventional pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions from personal, public, and goods
transportation in order to improve air quality and human health, and mitigate climate change.
The Council is made up of the leading regulators and experts from around the world that
participate as individuals based on their experience with air quality and transportation issues.
The ICCT promotes best practices and comprehensive solutions to improve vehicle emissions
and efficiency, increase fuel quality and sustainability of alternative fuels, reduce pollution
from the in-use fleet, and curtail emission from international goods movement.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which provided support for the report, makes
grants to address the most serious social and environmental problems facing society, where
risk capital, responsibly invested, may make a difference over time. The Foundation places a
high value on sustaining and improving institutions that make positive contributions to society.
The public, automakers, and policymakers have long worried about trade-offs between increased fuel economy
in motor vehicles and reduced safety. The conclusion of a broad group of experts on safety and fuel economy
in the auto sector is that no trade-off is required. There are a wide variety of technologies and approaches available
to advance vehicle fuel economy that have no effect on vehicle safety. Conversely, there are many technologies
and approaches available to advance vehicle safety that are not detrimental to vehicle fuel economy.
Congress is considering new policies to increase the fuel economy of new automobiles in order to reduce
oil dependence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The findings reported here offer reassurance on an
important dimension of that work: It is possible to significantly increase the fuel economy of motor vehicles
without compromising their safety.
Automobiles on the road today demonstrate that higher fuel economy and greater safety can co-exist. Some
of the safest vehicles have higher fuel economy, while some of the least safe vehicles driven today — heavy,
large trucks and SUVs — have the lowest fuel economy (see graph).
At an October 3, 2006 workshop, leading researchers from national laboratories, academia, auto manufacturers,
insurance research industry, consumer and environmental groups, material supply industries, and the
federal government agreed that vehicles could be designed to simultaneously improve safety and fuel
economy. The real question is not whether we can realize this goal, but the best path to get there.