The US government has announced that new vehicles sold in 2026 will have to average at least 40 mpg (17 km/l) in real-world driving, up from the current 28 mpg (11.9 km/l). This means automakers will have to spend tens of billions of dollars just to make new vehicles a lot more fuel efficient, and thus compliant with the new rules.

The move seeks to undo a rollback of standards previously enacted under the Trump administration (32 mpg or 13.6 km/l by 2026), which environmentalists have said was inadequate to limit greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, the Associated Press reports.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the new requirements will reduce gasoline consumption by over 833 billion litres over the life of the vehicles compared with Trump’s standards. It will also apparently help strengthen national security by making the country less dependent on foreign oil, and thus less vulnerable to volatile gasoline prices.

Due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, prices for gasoline has spiked to an average of more than US$4.22 (RM17.77) per gallon across the country. A year ago, a gallon of gasoline costs US$2.88 (RM12.13). The surge has also fuelled inflation to a 40-year high.

Transportation is the second-largest cost for American families, only behind housing. It is said that the new rules will help reduce consumer fuel costs by US$192 billion (RM808 billion) for new cars sold by 2030, and that consumers could save approximately US$1,387 (RM5.8k) in fuel costs over the life of a vehicles. However, the rule will also increase the average cost of a vehicle by just as much.