Average US Fuel Efficiency Has Only Grown by 3.6 MPG since 1923, Study Finds

A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute on the fuel consumption of America's fleet of vehicles has come up with surprising results.
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The team analyzed data from each year starting with 1923, put it all together and, we suspect, were pretty flabbergasted by their findings: over the last 92 years, America's fleet has only managed a 3.6 miles per gallon increase (3.4 l/100 km decrease) in fuel economy.

3.6 mpg (3.4 l/100 km) in spite of all the technological advancements, EPA restrictions, better engines, probably more qualitative fuels and infinitely superior infrastructure. It sounds a little... underwhelming.

The study took into account all vehicle types, including lorries of all sizes and motorcycles. For some of the researched years, since actual consumption data was not available, the team had to calculate fuel economy based on distance traveled and total fuel consumption.

The research paints a very eloquent image of the relation Americans had with fuel consumption over the course of nearly one century. In 1923, the average fuel economy for the US vehicles fleet was at a very round 14 mpg (16.8 l/100 km). The following years and all the way to the early 70's, it actually managed to decrease hitting a low 11.9 mpg (19.7 l/100 km) in 1973. Coincidentally or not, that was the year the gas crisis erupted and the low fuel prices the Americans had been enjoying went up. So did the average fuel economy number, reaching as high as 16.9 (13.9 l/100 km) mpg in 1991.

Since then, there has been slow, but steady growth, with a very unimpressive 17.6 (13.4 l/100 km) mpg average recorded in 2013.

There's a catch here. Actiually, more than just one

This sounds bad, but there's a catch. Because of some differences in the way the calculations were made over the years, the actual efficiency of cars alone has risen sensibly, from 13.4 (17.5 l/100 km) in 1973 to 23.4 (10 l/100 km) in 2013. A 10 mpg increase (7.5 l/100 km decrease) for the personal transportation vehicles, then, sounds a lot better.

Heavy duty trucks, however, registered the smallest gain: from 5.6 mpg (42 l/100 km) in 1966 to 6.4 mpg (36.7 l/100 km) in 2013 means they are now only 0.8 mpg (5.3 l/100 km) more efficient. The authors of the study insist another feature should be taken into consideration: the larger amount of goods modern vehicles are able to haul. The same goes for passenger cars which have become a lot safer and massively more powerful.

So the reality isn't as gloomy as it first sounded, but it's not looking all that great either. For comparison reasons, it would be nice to have a similar study conducted over the whole of Europe or at least one of the Western countries. I'm willing to bet the improvements would be a lot more substantial.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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