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Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)

​​​​​​The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s CAFE experts work with NHTSA to evaluate the standards that regulate how far our vehicles must travel on a gallon of fuel. (Adobe Stock image/Iryna)
The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s CAFE experts work with NHTSA to evaluate the standards that regulate how far our vehicles must travel on a gallon of fuel. (Adobe Stock image/Iryna)

About Us

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Program Office develops and executes analyses to assess the costs and benefits of national fuel economy standards—part of NHTSA’s safety mandate. Mandated by Congress since 1975, NHTSA's CAFE standards regulate how far vehicles must travel on a gallon of fuel. These standards consider future-year impacts, including vehicle demand, which have implications for highway infrastructure needs.

Our team serves as a primary technical resource for NHTSA’s CAFE program, partnering with the agency to manage and implement all aspects of NHTSA’s fuel economy program. We also provide key technical support to NHTSA throughout the complex federal rulemaking process.

U.S. DOT Volpe Center experts in automotive engineering, environmental science, physics, economics, computer science, and operations research have played a significant role in the CAFE program for nearly four decades, conducting detailed analyses and modeling to help determine the feasibility of these standards. 

To support the CAFE program, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center's team collects and analyzes volumes of data in order to:

  • Evaluate potential technologies to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Define a range of regulatory alternatives for consideration
  • Estimate potential technology deployment rates
  • Estimate how manufacturers could change the design of vehicle models in response to future CAFE standards
  • Evaluate the costs, energy and environmental effects, and consumer and social benefits of each technology and regulatory alternative

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center team has developed a modeling system to assist NHTSA in the evaluation of potential new CAFE standards. Given externally developed inputs, the modeling system (the CAFE Model) estimates how manufacturers could apply additional fuel-saving technologies in response to new CAFE and/or CO2 standards and how doing so would affect: 

  • vehicle costs and fuel economy levels  
  • vehicle sales volumes and fleet turnover 
  • and national-scale automotive manufacturing employment, highway travel, fatalities, fuel consumption, as well as CO2 and other emissions.  

Based on these impacts, the system calculates costs and benefits from private and social perspectives. 

To learn more about the CAFE Model, and to download the model software, visit NHTSA's CAFE Compliance and Effects Modeling System webpage. 

Our Capabilities

Economic and Policy Analysis

  • Conduct engineering, economic, energy, and industry analyses 
  • Collect, analyze, model, measure, simulate, synthesize, and communicate data 
  • Leverage longstanding institutional expertise and understanding of current economic conditions to conduct cost-benefit analyses

Environmental Analysis, Science, and Engineering

  • Conduct emissions estimations and fuel consumption reduction for new technologies
  • Support rulemaking and program analysis and alternatives to drive reductions in transportation energy emissions 
  • Manage fuel economy program

Applied Data Science

  • Collect data to estimate deployment rates
  • Analyze data to provide recommendations for future vehicle model redesign 
  • Evaluate impacts of new technologies and alternative rulemakings 

Meet Our Team

View selected staff biographies.

Sari Radin

Acting Chief

Kevin Green headshotSari Radin is the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s chief of economic analysis. Radin leads a team of more than 20 economists and social scientists, supporting major decisions and initiatives through evaluation and impact assessment, travel modeling and forecasting, and regulatory and financial decision support. The Division has expertise in all modes of transportation and frequently leverages knowledge and insights across modes and in support of multidisciplinary teams.

Since starting at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in 1995, Radin has primarily conducted prospective and retrospective studies and evaluations related to new technology and practice effectiveness, and technology transfer in a market context. She has also conducted formative program evaluations for programs in multiple modes, with a theme being assessment of data availability, quality, and use in decision making. 

Before joining the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, Radin conducted analyses in support of program design and infrastructure investment at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and supported benefit cost and econometric analyses at Resources for the Future. Radin has a BA in economics from Yale University (New Haven, CT) and an MS in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI).