EPA: New Car Fuel Economy Continues to Improve; Back to Early 1980's Level

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

Green Car Congress has digested the EPA’s Report on Vehicle Fuel Consumption and CO output for the period covering 1975 through 2008. For the fifth consecutive year, fuel economy of light-duty vehicles has improved. This trend reversed a long period of declining efficiency, which started in 1987, the all-time peak year for maximum economy (22 mpg average). Model Year 2009 economy is estimated to be 21.1 mpg. The period from 1975 through 1981 saw the most rapid increase in efficiency, starting at 13.1 mpg. A chart highlighting the changes in weight, horsepower, performance and economy follows:

Some of the significant trends are the increase in average weight to 4108 lbs., which is more than during the “land-barge” era of the early seventies. Horsepower has increased 65%, to 225, while 0-60 time has decreased by almost the same amount: 67%. But 1987, the peak economy year to 2009 present a starker picture. Fuel economy is almost the same, but weight increased 28%, horsepower almost doubled, and performance increased 27%. This indicates that that all of the technological improvements in efficiency, whether in the power train, aerodynamics, or rolling resistance have been offset by increased weight, safety and improved performance.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Detlump Detlump on Nov 22, 2009

    Aw man, I miss my 77 Sunbird now. The way the body rolled so far underneath between the wheels, the built-in snow and mud traps in the rear wheel openings, the cowl vents along the side under the dash (no air), the Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS). The memories. It was a 3.8 V6, uneven firing too. Shallow trunk, still had under the bumper hood release too. It was a great first car. Also, the non-clutch fan to save money made so much noise under accel it seemed like a Harrier taking off.

  • Nutsaboutcars Nutsaboutcars on Nov 23, 2009

    I wrote" …is only one more reason for us to be rational and efficient and not contribute to the price rise by going back to the automotive atrocities of the 90s and early 2000s, v8 Explorers, Expeditions and Suburbans, and full size pickups that few need, and all of which are far inferior to an efficient BMW 330 or so, which has double the MPG of the above hippopotamuses, and is a far more satisfying vehicle for the auto enthusiast." M. Presley replied: I agree with you about one thing, a BMW is generally more satisfying than an Expedition. But if I was a woman hauling around the kid’s soccer team, it might be a different story. You see, it is not up to you, or me, to determine for another what is and is not satisfying." You may want to check out the excellent 3 and 5 series wagons, new or used. My fiest cousin who lives in Amsterdam, Holland bought a 3 series wagon now that they have two young kids, and they are all very satisfied with it. But even if you need more space, or much more space, than these 3 and 5 series derivatives, there is always the Minivan. Of course, people are free to waste their money on a fuel hog Hippopotamus Suburban or expedeition instead, but the Honda Odyssey has more than plenty of room and in fact a much better ride and handling, at a fraction of the MPG and maybe even the price. I am fully within my rights to make a recommendation, nd offer my own opinion about various choices, and if they ignore it at their own risk, fine with me. I have no problem with people using large SUVs and full size pickups as intended, off-road, but I do object to Mall Poseurs, and I should be free to express my opinion. " Such hubris is the mark of the liberal" I cut off the rest of the clueless psychobabble right here. You do not seem to understand that conservatives can be and frequently are quite efficient and want to CONSERVE things, including fuel, and also the environment, they may be intensively using. Those who know me would laugh at the implication that I am liberal. I am quite conservative (yet independent) voter, and in fact I have not voted for any Democrat, much less liberal, since 1998. "Individual consumers make rational decisions every day without anyone telling them what to do, or making value judgments for them." They have the right to make uninformed and irrational decisions all they want. After all, a sucker is born every minute, and a fool and his money are soon parted, aren't they. And last time I checked, we have freedom of speech, including making choices and judgements, and there is nothing wrong with calling a hippopotamus a hippopotamus. if I was a hypocrite, I would call it a gazelle, but that is not me.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Defender looks way better than the Bronco in both 2-door and 4-door.
  • ToolGuy I found this particular episode to be incredibly offensive.I am shocked that eBay Motors is supporting this kind of language and attitudes in 2024.I will certainly keep this in mind next time I am choosing where to buy auto parts (I buy a LOT of auto parts).
  • SaulTigh When I was young in the late 80's one of my friends had the "cool dad." You know the guy, first to buy a Betamax and a C-band satellite dish. Couple of stand up arcade games in the den. Bought my friend an Atari 2600 as soon as they came out. He had two of these crap heaps. One that only ran half the time and one for parts in the yard. My middle school brain though he was the most awesome dad ever, buying us pizza and letting us watch R rated movies recorded on free HBO weekend. At the time I though he was much better than my boring father.Now with adult hindsight, I now know he was "dad who should have taken better care of his family" and not had so many toys.
  • Dave Has to be Indy 500. Many more leaders and front passes than NASCAR, and Monaco is unwatchable with the inability to pass on that circuit.
  • Jeff How did the discussion get from an article about a 56 billion dollar pay package for Elon Musk to a proposal to charge a per mile tax on EVs in California or paying increase registration on vehicles to make up for lost gas tax revenue? I thought such a discussion would better fit Matt's Gas Wars series.