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Sport Utility Vehicles, Mini-Vans, and Light Trucks: An Overview of Fuel Economy and Emissions Standards

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Publication Date: December 2004

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS20298

Topic: Energy (Fuels)
Manufacturing and industry (Automotive industry)


Most sport utility vehicles, mini-vans, and pickups are classified as "light trucks" and thus are regulated less stringently than passenger cars under two major laws -- the Energy Policy and Conservation Act for fuel economy standards, and the Clean Air Act for emissions standards. These differences came about because at the time the laws were passed, light trucks were used differently, and because they represented a much smaller share of the automobile market. Over the past decade, however, these vehicles have dramatically increased their share of the new automobile market. Therefore, the share of total fuel consumption and emissions attributable to these vehicles has steadily increased. In response to this trend, the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that by model year 2009, emissions from all light trucks and passenger cars will be regulated equally. Also, in April 2003, the Department of Transportation finalized more stringent fuel economy standards for light trucks starting in MY2005. This report discusses the discrepancy between emissions and fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks, how that discrepancy is changing, and legislative activity related to these issues. This report will be updated as events warrant.