According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the average gas mileage for new vehicles sold in the United States has gone from 23.1 miles per gallon (mpg) in 1980 to 24.7 mpgÂ in 2004.Â This represents a paltry increase of slightly less than 7% over the 25 year period.
In order to calculate the average gas mileage for all new vehicles sold within a calendar year, the NHTSA uses a calculation called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE).Â This essentially takes the EPA estimated gas mileage for each make and model sold and weights thatÂ estimated gas mileageÂ against the total number vehicles sold during that year.Â Click here for a more detailed explanation.
So, with all of the technological and engineering advances over the last 25 years, shouldn’t our gas mileage have gone up more than just 1.6 mpg?Â One would think that should be the case, but here are three reasons why there hasn’t been more of an increase in the average fuel economy:
More people are buying Trucks and SUVs.Â If you look at the list of the best selling vehicles in 2004, it would look a little something like this:
- Ford F-Series (truck)
- Chevy Silverado (truck)
- Dodge Ram (truck)
- Toyota Camry (sedan)
- Honda Accord (sedan)
- Ford Explorer (SUV)
SinceÂ four out of the top six selling vehicles were vehicles that tend to get pretty poor gas mileage, that can’t really help the weighted average gas mileage too much.
For the better part of 25 years, the United States has benefited from inexpensive gasoline.Â Until recently, there really hasn’t been much of a need or urgency to create cars that were more fuel efficient because it wasn’t expensive to fill up.Â We could be wasteful with gas and still not be wasteful with money.
Let’s be honest here: for as much as people say they want fuel efficient vehicles to help save the environment, the real motivation is lately it has become expensive to fill up and it would be cheaperÂ if people had cars that got better gas mileage.Â Money is the only real motivation for most people.
People are sitting in traffic for longer periods of time.Â When you don’t move, your gas mileage drops to zero!Â In a recent study, the average American’s commute has increased nearly 12% from 1990 to 2000, and over 20% from 1980 to 2000.Â That amount of idling will completely ruin any car’s gas mileage (with the exception of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight).
So, it looks like for as much of a big deal as we (America) made regarding this summer’s dramatic rise in gas prices, we are, for lack of a better phrase, reaping what we’ve sown.Â For years we’ve bought vehicles that were inefficient with gas, we didn’t care because gas wasn’t that expensive and even if we did have fuel efficient vehicles, we would have wasted it with our driving habits.
Anyway, now that the price of gas is starting to kick us in our collective butts, hopefully this will be a wake up call that we do need to start to develop more fuel efficient vehicles as well as find alternative fuels.