Are obese motorists negating fuel efficiency gains?

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fat car

According to Allstate and, its not the cars that are getting fatter. It's the drivers. Image: Charlie Brewer/Flickr/CC BY-SA

According to a blog post and an infographic, the growing epidemic of obese motorists in America may be cutting into the efforts of automakers to reduce the weight of passenger vehicles, and therefore to increase the miles per gallon of fuel.

Obese motorists lower fuel efficiency

To meet future emissions standards set by the federal government, automakers have put their vehicles on strict diets. But it may all be for naught. According to a recent report, as the weight goes down on our vehicles, Americans are packing on the pounds. And that could negate the best intentions of politicians and automakers.

A billion gallons a year

According to a blog post and an infographic prepared by Allstate insurance and, the extra weight of obese Americans may have burned up as much as a billion gallons of gas a year between 1960 and 2002. That figure comes from a study done by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Allstate said:

“Americans keep gaining weight, and cars are losing it. It’s a seesaw battle that’s making it difficult to realize the gains expected by a push for lighter, more fuel efficient cars.”

Efficiency drops 2 percent every 100 lbs.

That may seem like a stretch to many, but consider that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the fuel efficiency of a vehicle increases by 2 percent for every 100 pounds it loses.

That also means, however, that fuel efficiency is degraded by the weight of the passengers inside. As Americans get heavier and heavier, could the cumulative effect negate the efforts of automakers?

CAFE standards

According to the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, all cars sold in America after 2025, LA to Brookly, Ford to Porsche, must all achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. The average now is 32.8 miles to a gallon. Automakers have a ways to go, and so they are experimenting with lighter weight materials and any other methods of lowering weight, as well as trying to make more efficient engines.

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Weight gains

Obesity is more prevalent than ever in the U.S. A gallup poll from last year found that the average American has put on about 20 pounds since 1990. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that 35 percent of Americans meet the medical definition of obese. The average woman is now 160 pounds, and the average man is 196, according to the Gallup poll.

Exacerbating the issue, a poll by AOL Autos found that heavier motorists generally prefer larger, heavier cars that don’t make them feel so crowded.


Chicago Tribune
AOL Autos

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