EPA Fuel Economy Report: Americans Vehicles Saw 1.4 MPG Jump Last Year

Yesterday, EPA released a new report that showed major fuel efficiency gains in American vehicles.

EPA’s annual report that tracks the fuel economy of vehicles sold in the United States is signaling a significant 1.4 mile per gallon (mpg) increase for 2012 cars and trucks — along with a continued decrease in carbon pollution.

The expected 1.4 mpg improvement in 2012 is based on sales estimates provided to EPA by automakers. EPA’s projections show a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to 374 grams per mile and an increase in average fuel economy to 23.8 mpg. If achieved, these would be among the largest annual improvements since EPA began reporting on fuel economy. These improvements would more than make up for a slight 0.2 mpg decrease in 2011 that resulted primarily from earthquake and tsunami-related disruptions to vehicle manufacturing in Japan. From 2007 to 2012, EPA estimates that CO2 emissions have decreased by 13 percent and fuel economy values have increased by 16 percent.

The report goes on to estimate that from 2007 to 2012, fuel economy increased 16 percent, with a 13 percent decline in carbon dioxide emissions. As Gina McCarthy put it, this saves money at the pump, reduces GhG emissions, and cleans the air.

We can expect the Obama Administration’s National Clean Car Program standards to double increase fuel economy by 2025, saving Americans $1.7 trillion dollars on gasoline. By the end of the program, this works out to $8,000 in savings per vehicle, and 2 million fewer barrels of oil every day.

Last year’s report only included data from vehicles power by gasoline or diesel, while this year’s report has a section on alternative fuels: electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and compressed natural gas. The report also includes corrected estimates following the probe into inflated fuel economy numbers from some automakers.

Some pertinent highlights from the executive summary:

  • CO2 emission rates and fuel economy values reflect a very favorable multi-year trend, beginning with model year (MY) 2005.
  • The U.S. personal vehicle market is diversifying, and consumers now have a much broader range of vehicle choices with respect to fuel economy/CO2 emissions performance and powertrain technology. The number of SUV, pickup, minivan, and van models that have combined EPA label values of 20 mpg or more have increased by 71%, from 38 in 2007 to 65 in 2012.
  • Nearly 25% of projected MY 2012 vehicle production already meets the MY 2016 CO2 targets, or can meet these targets with the addition of expected air conditioning improvements.
  • Vehicle power is at a record high, while the vehicle weight trend is generally flat. … In MY 2011, the average vehicle power was 230 horsepower, an increase of 16 horsepower since MY 2010. … Vehicle weight and performance are two of the most important engineering parameters that help determine a vehicle’s CO2 emissions and fuel economy. In general, all other factors being equal, higher vehicle weight (which supports new options and features) and faster acceleration performance (e.g., lower 0-to-60 mile-per-hour acceleration time), both increase a vehicle’s CO2 emissions and decrease fuel economy.

What do the data from this report look like in the real world?

In 2007, consumers had half the number of hybrid and diesel choices they have now, and six times fewer car models that got 30 mpg or higher. Things are changing for consumers who walk into car dealerships. Because it’s easier to buy a car when there is one sitting in front of you on the lot, Nissan expects sales of the Leaf to rise this year following boosted production. Oftentimes demand from electric cars could not be satisfied by inventory. Also, a little friendly price war between Nissan and Toyota helps the adoption of electric cars and consumer choice.

GM is producing 32,000 Volts this year, a 20% increase from 2012.

There’s something for everyone, even sports car aficionados:

LaFerrari, successor to the Ferrari Enzo, is the automaker’s fastest road car ever and the first car to feature hybrid technology known as HY-KERS, adopted from the Formula 1 racing circuit. The car has a 789-horsepower V12 engine linked to a 160-horsepower electric motor and a chassis made of carbon fiber. Ferrari says the result is a vehicle that delivers both maximum performance and lower emissions.

McLaren also went for hybrid technology in its new flagship supercar, the P1. The twin-turbo gasoline V8 engine combined with an electric motor delivers 903 horsepower and 663 pounds of torque, which means drivers can hit 62 mph before counting to three.

McLaren set out to make the P1 “the best driver’s car in the world.” To do that, “the best all-round solution, we quickly deduced, would be a petrol-electric engine,” said Chief Design Engineer Dan Parry-Williams in a statement. “It gives us very high levels of power, instant torque and terrific fuel and CO2 figures.”

Let’s hope this trend continues to improve. Have you found it easier to get around using less gasoline?