We knew it was coming. Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency jointly released new Federal CAFE fuel mileage and greenhouse gas emissions requirements that will cover the 2012 through 2016 model years. The estimated fleet-wide fuel economy standard has been set at 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016, though improvements in air conditioning systems will bring that number up to around 35 mpg. That equals a standard of roughly 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile.

The overall fleet fuel mileage requirement will be an average between both passenger cars and light trucks, and NHTSA is predicting that the 2012 numbers will be 33.3 for cars and 25.4 for trucks in 2012, rising to 37.8 for cars and 28.8 for trucks by 2016. As before, credits will be dished out for vehicles that can run on E85 (ethanol), though automakers will need to prove their cars are running on the alcohol fuel by 2015 to continue earning those credits.

Smaller volume automakers that sold fewer that 400,000 cars in 2009 will get a break on the requirements while "specialty automakers" such as BMW and Porsche will reportedly get longer lead-in times. Automakers will also get some sort of incentive for the first 200,000 plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles built by 2016. These standards are said to be equivalent to taking 58 million cars off our nation's roads for a year, representing a savings of 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

Naturally, all of this is going to cost some extra dough. If the Feds are right, automakers will spend $51.5 billion over the next five years putting the standards into effect and the average price of a new car will rise by $985 by 2016. Savings, though, are expected to be even greater, with the average consumer will net an extra $3,000 in their wallets per in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.

[Source: Detroit News | Image: Tim Boyle/Getty]