The new plan would require automakers in China to improve fuel economy by an additional 18 percent by 2015, said An Feng, a leading architect of China’s existing fuel economy regulations who is now the president of the Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation, a nonprofit group in Beijing.
The plan is going through the interagency approval process, with comments sought from automakers, and is scheduled for release early next year, he said.
The average fuel economy of family vehicles in China is already higher than in the United States, mainly because cars in China tend to be considerably
smaller than those in the United States — and are getting even smaller because of recent tax changes.
Cars with small fuel-sipping engines are now subject to a 1 percent tax, while sports cars and sport utility vehicles with the largest engines are subject to a 40 percent tax. Stricter fuel economy standards have won support from four interest groups within the Chinese government, said a Chinese government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.
China uses a different system from the United States to regulate fuel economy. China sets minimum standards for each of 16 weight categories and tests only urban fuel economy, not highway driving.
Adjusted for these differences, the average new car, minivan or sport utility vehicle in China already gets the equivalent of 35.8 miles a gallon this year based on the American measurement system of corporate averages and will be required to get 42.2 miles a gallon in 2015, Mr. An said.By comparison, President Obama announced last week that each automaker will be required to reach a corporate average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
The details of China’s new fuel economy standards may favor domestic automakers at the expense of multinationals, several auto industry officials said. That is because the new rules call for the steepest increases in fuel economy — as much as 26 percent — for midsize and compact cars, market segments where multinationals are strong. Subcompacts, a market where domestic automakers are stronger, will be required to increase their gas mileage by as little as 9 percent compared with the existing standards, which took effect on Jan. 1.