Fuel Economy Standards Could Add $15,000 to Heavy Duty Pickups

I am a pickup truck lover. Why? Well, why not? Mostly, I love pickups because they are so damn tough. They are the workhorses of our country and many companies, and while they are certainly gas guzzlers, much of modern life wouldn't be possible without pickup trucks. This includes the behemoth heavy-duty trucks that I often see hauling horse trailers, carnival equipment, and other such heavy-duty hardware.

You just can't expect great gas mileage when you're hauling half a home behind you though. Upcoming fuel economy standards could have the side effect of adding $15,000 to the price of already expensive heavy duty trucks. No beuno.

Where does that $15,000 figure come from? The National Academies released a 414 page study that says improving fuel economy on pickups could cost just a few extra hundred bucks, or several thousand, depending on the vehicle in question. The cost of improving the gas mileage on diesel engines, adding hybrid-drive systems, multiple catalytic converters can add quite a bit to the bottom line. The $15,000 could be high, and certainly isn't set in stone because we haven't seen any of these trucks hit the market yet. Truck makers might have to get more creative though.

The study breaks down vehicles in different sections; for medium and heavy-duty pickups, it lists several fuel-improvement options that seem almost insanely cost effective. A the cost of just an extra $10, a 2% increase in fuel economy can come from low-rolling resistance tires. For $100, improving the aerodynamics on a truck results in a 3% increase in fuel economy. By switching from four speed transmissions to more modern six-or-eight-speed transmissions, a 7.5% increase in fuel economy is expected, and would add just $1000 to the price of a big pickup. However, a hybrid drivetrain would add upwards of $9,000. A smaller, turbocharged engine could add $4,000 to the price of a pickup (it will be interesting to see how the F-150 EcoBoost is priced).

Cleaning up our pickups is important, but making sure people have the tools they need to do their job is important too. The economy is still rough, and while these regulations aren't planned for any earlier than 2014, there is no saying our country will be in any position to pay that kind of premium for a tool many people need. Most people don't buy a $60,000 pickup because they want it, but because they need it. Still, many of these vehicles have enjoyed being exempt from fuel economy standards for quite some time (manufacturers don't even have to publish fuel economy ratings for heavy duty pickups). Maybe it is just time we held our heavy duty trucks to a higher standard.

Down the road, it will obviously benefit small company owners and such who pour a lot of money into feeding their fleet. Even a marginal improvement in gas mileage can save thousands of dollars over the life of these vehicles, and many of these improvements, like aerodynamics and better transmissions are no brainers. We'll see how this turns out though.

Source: PickupTrucks.com | Image: Ford

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