EPA, NHTSA open 60-day comment period on SAFE Vehicles Rule

By Erin Voegele | August 27, 2018

On Aug. 24, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule) in the Federal Register, officially opening a 60-day comment period on the proposal.

The EPA and NHTSA first released a pre-publication version of the proposed rule on Aug. 2. At that time, several representatives of the ethanol industry spoke out to applaud the SAFE Vehicles Rule for addressing the potential of high-octane fuels.

Regarding high-octane fuels, the rulemaking states that stakeholders have suggested that mid-level high octane ethanol blends should be considered and that EPA should consider requiring mid-level blends to be made available at service stations. “Higher octane gasoline could provide manufacturers with more flexibility to meet more stringent standards by enabling opportunities to use lower CO2 emitting technologies (e.g., higher compression ratio engines, improved turbocharging, optimized engine combustion,” said the EPA in the rulemaking. The agency is specifically requesting comment on if and how it could support the production and use of higher octane gasoline consistent with Title II of the Clean Air Act.

The proposal also references previous recommendations made by the High Octane Low Carbon Alliance and the Fuel Freedom Foundation. “In meetings with HOLC and FFA, the groups advocated for the potential benefits high octane fuels could provide via the blending of non-petroleum feedstocks to increase octane levels available at the pump,” the EPA wrote in the rulemaking. “The groups’ positions on benefits took both a technical approach by suggesting an octane level of 100 is desired for the marketplace, as well as, the benefits from potential increased national energy security by reduced dependencies on foreign petroleum.”

The EPA is soliciting comments “on the potential benefits, or dis-benefits, of considering the impacts of increased fuel octane levels available to consumers for the purposes of the model. More specifically, please comment on how increasing fuel octane levels would play a role in product offerings and engine technologies.”

The public comment period is set to end Oct. 23. Comments can be filed online at www.reglations.gov under Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0283 and/or NHTSA-2018-0067. Addition information and a full copy of the SAFE Vehicles Rule is available on the Federal Register website.