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Published: Friday, 10/1/2010

Fuel-saving rules could push use of hybrids


WASHINGTON - The next round of U.S. fuel-efficiency standards aims to push gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles into the mainstream as the Obama Administration looks for steeper and more consistent mileage gains from automakers.

An outline of where the administration wants to go on auto efficiency between 2017 and 2025 was due to be completed by regulators Thursday, with an announcement set for Friday, industry and other sources familiar with the plan said.

The document is expected to articulate goals for fuel savings and seek comment from automakers, environmental groups, and other interests.

A formal proposal would follow, and a final rule would be in place at least 18 months before the 2017 model year.

The administration's plan, far from finalized, is important for investors seeking clarity on prospects and costs of various efficiency technologies, such as batteries for plug-ins, fuel cells, and lighter-weight vehicle and vehicle component construction materials such as composite fibers and aluminum.

President Obama said in May he thought it was possible for cars and trucks to cut their fuel use and carbon emissions by half within 20 years.

Scientific experts, environmentalists, and consumer groups want a standard in the next efficiency rule of 60 miles per gallon by 2025, which would require 6 percent fuel-economy gains yearly. Standards imposed last year require autos to get 35.5 mpg by 2016, up 42 percent from current levels.

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