Has fuel economy changed in a century? image

While federal guidelines ask for an increase in terms of fuel economy and for a car to deliver 54.5 mpg by 2025, a new study conducted by the University of Michigan Trasportation Research Institute says that from 1923 to 2013 the average mileage of the American auto fleet only rose 3.6 miles per gallon, to just 17.6 mpg.

Is there any chance for a car to reach 54.5 mpg in only ten years from now on?

The fuel economy has actually fallen for a big number of years before 1974 when it commenced its rebound due to the first Mideast oil shock after Washington made into law the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard (CAFE). At first, mileage grew quickly, but in recent years, improvement has been rather insignificant.

The study says that until 1970, fuel efficiency was not given much attention by the American motorists, and it did not represent an issue for the auto industry. The mileage that averaged 14.0 mpg in 1913 actually dropped to 11.9 mpg by 1973. Even if the CAFÉ standard was enacted in 1974, it was only four years later that it started to have an impact, by 1991 the mileage value having come back to 16.9 mpg. By 2013 however, it had only risen 0.7 miles per gallon, to 17.6 mpg.

It would take a lot of effort from the automotive industry to pull the rather big target of 54.5 mpg in only a decade. What needs to be taken into account is that the 2025 target has a number of credits and adjustments, which means that an average car will only need to have 40 mpg in order to comply with CAFÉ, and that number is only available for cars that are sold starting that year.


By Gabriela Florea