Automakers must double down saving gas

New rules say that cars must improve fuel efficiency, but will consumers buy them?

Expect to see a lot more electric and hybrid cars on the road in the coming years. Washington recently announced new rules that cars must have almost double the current fuel economy standard of 29 miles per gallon by 2025. Ottawa quickly said it will follow suit with common standards. (The Canadian equivalent would mean moving from 6.6 to 4.4 litres per 100 km). What’s good for the environment, however, is creating something of a dilemma for automakers. They need to continue making big investments in green technology to meet the new requirements, but as yet haven’t found much of a market for green cars. Consumers remain fiercely loyal to the old-fashioned internal combustion engine. In Canada, just 0.03 per cent are buying electric cars. General Motors expects to sell 2,500 plug-in hybrid Chevy Volts in August—its highest monthly rate since the model was introduced in 2010. With sales falling short of projections, GM is shutting down production for four weeks. Sales of Nissan’s electric Leaf, meanwhile, are down 26 per cent from last year. Carmakers will continue making electrics and hybrids—last month Ford said it is hiring dozens more engineers for that purpose—but for now, it won’t do much for the bottom line.

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