How does getting 54.5 miles per gallon sound?
For consumers who are tired of high gasoline prices, it probably sounds too good to be true. But that’s what the federal government has said average miles per gallon on new cars must be 12 years from now, and already the effects are beginning to be felt.
A Consumer Federation of American survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans support those government requirements to increase the average fuel economy of new cars to 35 miles per gallon by 2017 and to an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025. The current rules mandate an average of about 29 miles per gallon.
“For their next vehicle purchase, fuel economy will be an important factor for 88 percent of respondents,” said Jack Gillis, co-author of the report “On the Road to 54.5 MPH: A Progress Report on Achievability.” He is the consumer federation’s director of public affairs and author of “The Car Book.”
Some of the survey’s findings include:
• Those who say fuel economy is very important expect to get 12 miles more per gallon from their next vehicle than those who say it is not important.
• Consumers intend to purchase even higher mileage vehicles going forward. Those who indicated that their gas mileage was 24 mpg and who intend to purchase a vehicle in the future, expect a 7 miles per gallon increase or to get 31 miles per gallon from their next vehicle.
• More than half of respondents who said they intend to purchase a SUV said they want its fuel economy to be at least 25 miles per gallon.
“These results should lay to rest any concerns that some car dealers had about consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Gillis.
In spite of the support of car companies, unions, consumer and environmental groups, the National Automobile Dealers Association was the only major entity opposed to the new requirements.
Consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles is high due to the cost of gasoline, said Mark Cooper, CFA’s Director of Research. The average car-owning household spent $3,000 on gasoline in 2012. That’s 50 percent more than the total amount they spent on energy costs needed to run their homes.
“Our analysis has consistently shown that increases in vehicle prices are more than offset by savings from gasoline purchases,” Cooper said.
Spurred by the higher government standard and greater consumer demand, automakers are increasing the mileage of the vehicles they produce. Between 2009 and 2013, the percentage of total available models getting at least 30 miles per gallon rose from one to nine; the percentage getting at least 23 miles per gallon increased from 19 to 45; and the percentage getting less than 15 miles per gallon fell from 15 to three, CFA said.
“In part, this increasing gas mileage reflects the decision of automakers to improve the fuel economy of ‘new series’ vehicles – those with significant design changes. Each year from 2010 to 2013, the average fuel economy for these ‘new series’ vehicles increased – by an average of 2.2 mpg over their previous series,” Gillis said.
The gas mileage of popular cars, pick-ups, and vans has increased significantly in the past few years, with the percentage of popular vehicles getting at least 30 mpg tripling, CFA said.
Comparing popular 2009 models with 2013 models, the new analysis shows that the percentage of vehicles getting at least 30 mpg rose from four to 12 percent. Over the same time period, the percentage of popular vehicles getting at least 23 mpg rose from 30 to 56 percent; and the percentage getting under 22 mpg fell from 70 to 44 percent.
Over the past six years, there were even greater mileage improvements for many individual models. Standouts include the Chevy Malibu (went from 20 to 29 miles per gallon), the Honda Accord (went from 24 to 30 miles per gallon), the Nissan Altima (went from 26 to 31 miles per gallon), the Ford Escape (went from 19 to 25 miles per gallon), and the Ford Fusion (went from 21 to 26 miles per gallon.)
Along with the push for vehicles that get better mileage are new labels designed to make it easier for car shoppers to compare gasoline mileage. The labels debuted on the 2013 models. Miles per gallon information has been listed on vehicle labels since 1977.
The new labels are filled with information including:
combined city/highway miles per gallon
the number of gallons per 100 miles
the annual fuel cost based on $3.70 per gallon gasoline and 15,000 miles of driving
fuel costs over five years
greenhouse gas and smog ratings
People shopping for a new vehicle can scan a QR code on the label using a smartphone, provided they have downloaded a scanner app. The QR code will link you to helpful tools and additional information about the vehicle. Or you can find the information at fueleconomy.gov.
If you’re driving a four-cyclinder vehicle, you’re part of a trend.
In 2005, less than 30 percent of the vehicles purchased had four-cylinder engines, and in 2012, nearly half of those purchased had four cylinders.
“What is remarkable is that improvements in engine efficiency, driven by the standards and consumer demand, resulted in a significant increase in four-cylinder vehicles with little compromise in performance,” Cooper said.
Increasing mileage performance is also reflected the growing sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, which have doubled in sales during the past four years to over half a million vehicles.
Electric vehicles are expected to become more popular as battery technology improves and prices go down.
To view a copy of the report, go to consumerfed.org/pdfs/ON-THE-ROAD-TO-54-MPG.pdf