Fuel economy of American’s vehicles hits record in August

fuel efficiency

Americans are driving more fuel-efficient cars than ever.

That conclusion is based on data compiled through August by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), which has tracked American fuel economy for nearly seven years.

The average fuel economy of vehicles sold in the U.S. last month reached 25.8 mpg, nearly 6 mpg higher than the 20.1 mpg recorded in October 2007, according to the research institute’s data. The latest figure tops the previous high of 25.7 mpg recorded in May of this year.

And at least one source suggests the fuel-economy average could surpass 26 mpg by October.

UMTRI calculates average sales-weighted fuel economy from monthly sales of individual models of light-duty vehicles such as cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks, as well as the combined city/highway fuel-economy ratings—or window sticker ratings—published by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Though it’s not a 100-percent accurate means of calculation [because] the staff have to make some educated guesses about model years and fuel stats from low-volume brands like Lamborghini,” wrote Richard Read at The Car Connection research website, “Still, it’s very interesting data.”

UMTRI’s Eco-Driving Index also showed the average monthly emissions of greenhouse gases generated by the driver of a new light vehicle purchased in June stood at 0.78. That figure indicates that the average new-car driver produced 22 percent lower emissions than in October 2007.

In The Car Connection, Read noted that the research institute’s results differ from corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, which also “recorded a record-high figure in August, too – 31.3 mpg … substantially higher than the 24.7 mpg recorded in October 2007.” Still, that’s well short of the 54.5 mpg the federal government has mandated for manufacturers’ fleets by 2025.

“The formulas used to calculate CAFE are complicated, taking into account production volume, fleet-wide fuel economy averages, and other factors, [and] electric and extended-range vehicles can make the math even fuzzier,” wrote Read. “The important thing to know is that those formulas yield numbers significantly higher than ‘real world’ fuel economy.”

At its present rate of improvement the CAFE figure is not likely to achieve the federally mandated level in the next decade, according to Read, although “an expected influx of hybrids, electric cars and other advanced-tech vehicles could cause sharp upticks down the road.”