End of 17-Year Decline in Fuel Economy
Oct. 2, 2007: Source – Wall Street Journal
Last week, the EPA released fuel economy averages using new test methods designed to better reflect real-world driving habits. As a result, fuel economy averages dropped by 6 percent compared to old testing criteria. But when comparing fuel economy apples-to-apples, the average fuel economy for 2007 vehicles was flat compared with 2006 vehicles. That’s good news considering that the average fuel economy of America’s new car fleet has been on a downward trend for the past 17 years.
Toyota posted a 22.8 mpg average for its 2007 vehicles compared with 22.4 mpg the previous year. Toyota’s average was helped by the Prius, which had the highest combined fuel economy of any passenger car with 46.2 mpg. Honda had the highest fuel economy of any manufacturer with 22.9 mpg, a slight decrease compared with its 2006 lineup.
But Joseph White, writing in the Wall Street Journal, dug a bit deeper in the EPA’s report to find a few startling figures:
Compared with 1987, the average weight of the vehicle we drive has risen by 923 pounds, or 29%. The average time it takes for a vehicle to go from zero to 60 miles per hour time has dropped to 9.6 seconds–the fastest since the EPA started compiling this data in 1975. Our average car or truck has 223 horsepower, and the most horsepower per pound on record.
…If 2007 cars were as light on average as 1981 cars, our national average car fuel economy (according to the unadjusted EPA lab figures) would be 13% better than current reality. If 2007 model trucks were the same weight as the average for 1981, their fuel efficiency rating would be 35% better.
White draws a line between consumer demand for heavier, faster, safer, and more luxurious vehicles, and the flat-line on fuel economy. He asks, “What Will It Take for Americans To Give Up Speed, Power and Size?” Michigan U.S. Rep. John Dingell recently proposed one idea: a bill that would raise the tax on gasoline by 50 cents. According to White, “It’s pretty likely this bill will go nowhere.”