It would seem that all this talk of turbochargers, direct injection, hybrids and stop/start technology is paying dividends: the University of Michigan reports that the United States average fuel economy is trending up, and hit a record high of 22.5 mpg in 2011.
Researchers from the UM Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor found that in the calendar year 2011, cars sold in the U.S. averaged 22.5 mpg. This number reflects a number of things: first, it’s weighted to reflect sales proportions, and second, it’s not the same as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy figure that’s used by the government. CAFE, you might remember, takes into account certain adjustments for larger vehicles and advanced technologies. This measure doesn’t.
With that said, it’s definitely a step in the right direction for cars sold here. U.S. average economy (by U of M’s measurement) has increased, on average, by about 0.5 mpg every year. This might sound like an insignificant change, but considering that Americans have bought about 12 million cars per year over the past few years, that 0.5 mpg translates to about 200 million fewer gallons of gas burned every year.
If you break down the changes in fuel economy, there are a couple more surprises: even though hybrids have better average fuel economy than their conventional engine counterparts--25.2 mpg to 21.4 mpg, respectively--the average figure for hybrids has gone down a full 3.0 mpg in the last four years, whereas standard internal combustion cars have gained 2.6 mpg in the same timeframe.
Also a bit surprising: cars with manual transmissions increased their efficiency more than their automatic counterparts: automatic cars increased 2.5 mpg over the past four years, while manual cars increased by 2.8. That might surprise, but this shouldn’t: four-cylinder cars took the top spot for most improved over the same time period, as four-bangers gained 2.3 mpg between 2008 and 2012.
The numbers are encouraging, but there’s lots of work to be done: at the current rate, it’ll take about 60 years for us to meet the CAFE goal of a 54.5 mpg average by 2025.
Source: University of Michigan via Detroit Free Press