New Car MPG Up in January, Greenhouse Gases Down

Despite increased truck and SUV sales these days in the U.S., a University of Michigan report indicates last month newly purchased vehicles’ average fuel economy increased and greenhouse gases correspondingly decreased as part of a continuing trend.

According to the report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), new vehicles sold last month had an average fuel economy of 25.4 mpg. This is a 0.3 mpg increase from the month before.

“The improvement in January likely reflects the leveling off since mid January in the price of gasoline,” said Director Michael Sivak, Ph.D., and Project Manager Brandon Schoettle of the UMTRI which has tracked both figures since October 2007 and released the latest findings Wednesday.

Average sales-weighted fuel-economy rating (window sticker) of purchased new vehicles for October 2007 through January 2015. Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Average sales-weighted fuel-economy rating (window sticker) of purchased new vehicles
for October 2007 through January 2015. Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Their research shows that vehicles are steadily becoming more efficient (see graph above). Since the study began more than seven years ago, new vehicles have improved by 5.3 mpg overall. However, January 2015’s figure is still lower than August 2014, when average mpg peaked at 25.8.

Sivak and Schoettle also noted that greenhouse gases emitted by new cars are decreasing (see graph below). The data is measured using the University of Michigan Eco-Driving Index (EDI).

University of Michigan Eco-Driving Index (EDI) and the two sub-indexes (EDId and EDIf) for October 2007 through November 2014. Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

University of Michigan Eco-Driving Index (EDI) and the two sub-indexes (EDId and EDIf)
for October 2007 through November 2014. Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

“The EDI takes into account both vehicle fuel economy and distance driven (the latter relying on data that are published with a two-month lag),” said Sivack and Shoettle.

The current index of 0.77 for November 2014 is an improvement from October’s EDI of 0.89.

SEE ALSO: New Tech Is Pushing MPG Up; Emissions Down

“This value indicates that the average new-vehicle driver produced 23-percent lower emissions in November 2014 than in October 2007,” Sivak and Schoettle said.

The Institute didn’t release any analysis on the improvements behind each index, though. A recent HybridCars.com article delves more into the technology responsible for these changes, citing smaller engines and improved fuel delivery methods as two examples.

From what we and analysts have observed, a big-picture truth is the entire U.S. and global market’s efficiency scores are being driven by increasing consumer awareness of emerging alternative technologies and products coupled with government regulations.

The precise balance of these broad supply and demand factors and myriad nuanced variables would be difficult to pinpoint or even sum up in a brief sentence but one short statement is automakers know their products must become more efficient.

It would appear the raft of conventional and alternative technologies being used are generally effective and getting better as alternative energy vehicle sales are relatively down compared to the broader market.