Research finds fuel economy better than ever

May 16, 2014 12:00 AM

While aiming to deal with fluctuating gas prices and minimize negative environmental impact, many motorists are focused on one thing when they're buying a vehicle: fuel economy. Keeping up with scheduled maintenance and having a professional perform certain updates can definitely have an impact on this aspect, but some automobiles simply offer more mileage out of each gallon of gas. These models not only minimize a driver's eco-footprint by reducing emissions, but also let them save a substantial amount of money. Fortunately, recent studies have revealed very positive findings for consumers on a budget: Fuel economy is vastly improving.

Optimistic outlook for drivers
According to U.S. News & World Report, the new cars releasing for the 2014 model year are getting four more miles to the gallon as opposed to those from 2008, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. In fact, average fuel economy for vehicles achieved an all-time high in March at 25.4. Still, this figure dropped slightly to 25.2 in April. Project manager at the institute, Brandon Schoettle, told the news outlet that this can probably be attributed to the increase in light-truck sales last month.

Other studies have revealed similar data. A separate U.S. News & World Report article noted the Consumer Federation of America found that more than half of all 2014 car models return a minimum combined mpg of 23, with 11.6 percent returning at least 30 mpg. Seeing as three years ago, only 34.5 percent hit the 23 mpg mark and a mere 4.2 percent returned 30 mpg, this is an impressive improvement.

The positive findings don't stop there, either. The source reported that according to CFA's research, there are also far more options in each segment for fuel-efficient vehicles than there were in 2009. While five years ago, only 21 new compact vehicles on the market returned between 27 and 30 mpg, there are a whopping 62 models that offer fuel economy in that range this year. Today, there are also 78 SUVs that hit between 23 and 26 mpg, but there were just 32 SUVs that fell in the same range in 2009.

Changing demands for automakers
Fortunately for motorists, it seems that car companies are focused on continually enhancing the fuel economy of their offerings. U.S. News & World Report pointed out that a majority of automakers are sizing down their engines and incorporating high-gear transmissions. On top of that, some makers have been trading steel and other heavy metals for lighter materials. Still, some of these manufacturers have a long way to go. The news outlet asserted that many of them will need to leverage advanced technologies and hybrid power to truly make a noticeable difference in their lineup's mileage per gallon.

A major reason why many car brands are designing more fuel-efficient models is that by the year 2025, they are required to comply with the government's new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards of 54.5 mpg. According to U.S. News & World Report, CFA Public Affairs Director Jack Gillis believes that forcing automakers to meet these requirements will not only be beneficial for automakers and drivers alike, but will also decrease the country's dependency on foreign oil while also improving air quality and the overall environment.

Newsday explained that for some brands, these new standards will be simple to reach, while others may find the targets more challenging. For example, companies like Honda and Toyota, which produce mainly smaller sedans as well as hybrids and electric vehicles, will have an easier time than firms like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or Ram Trucks. The source noted that those companies that can't keep up with the fuel-economy requirements will end up facing major fines in the future.

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