Putting new fuel mileage standards in perspective

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Miles Per Gallon

Fuel economy standards currently require less than 50 miles per gallon. Image: Flickr / dmott9 / CC-BY

Currently, fuel mileage standards require all automakers to improve efficiency to slightly more than 35 miles per gallon by 2016. Proposed new standards would build on this, raising the eventual requirement to a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon.

Automotive industry frustrations

The automotive industry has come out very strongly against the proposed changes to fuel economy standards. The United Auto Workers Union and all three major American car makers say that the increase in fuel mileage requirements would make vehicles much more expensive and put an undue burden on car makers. The coalition against the changes also claims the increased mileage would make it more difficult for buyers to get financing for their vehicle purchases.

A history of gas mileage

In 1975, the average fuel economy for both cars and trucks was slightly less than 15 miles per gallon. By the mid 1980s, average gas mileage for a car was about 24 miles per gallon, 15 miles per gallon for light trucks. In 1989, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration raised standards to 27.5 mpg for passenger vehicles and 20 mpg for light trucks, which includes sport utility vehicles. In 2008, average fuel economy for all vehicles on the road was 17.4 mpg, 3.4 miles per gallon more than the average in 1923.

A variety of options

Vehicles currently on the road in the United States vary widely in gas mileage. The most efficient vehicle on the road in the U.S. is about nine times more efficient than the worst choice. In 2007, the least efficient vehicle on the road, a Lamborghini Murcielago, got about 9 miles per gallon in city driving. The best non-hybrid mpg in vehicles is the 1993 Geo Metro XFI, which clocked in at 58 miles per gallon on the freeway. Currently, the newest model year Prius is rated at 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 miles per gallon on the highway.

[The Sandy Springs Toyota dealership carries Prius and other fuel-efficient Toyota vehicles.]


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