WASHINGTON -- The United States’ light-duty vehicle fleet has undergone a massive transformation in fuel economy, from the gas-guzzlers of the 1970s to the highly efficient hybrids of the 2010s.
One powerful factor behind this shift is Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which President Obama toughened in 2012 to hit the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for light-duty vehicles and trucks by model-year 2025.
While there are indications that the Trump administration will revisit this goal, automakers have already clearly made some progress in stretching more miles out of every gallon of fuel. What follows are three highlights from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy’s 2017 Fuel Economy Guide, showing the wide range of fuel costs and economy in the light-duty vehicle fleet ...
1. Fuel costs by vehicle class
Annual fuel costs vary great by vehicle size class, according to the 2017 Fuel Economy Guide. Standard SUVs had the widest range in annual fuel costs, from $700 to $3,850 per year.
Size classes with the widest range in fuel costs often include electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which have higher efficiencies than vehicles with conventional drivetrains. Meanwhile, size classes with fewer vehicle models often have narrower ranges.
The small pickup class, which is only available with conventional drivetrains, had the narrowest range, or just $500 between the lowest- and highest-annual-cost models.
The vehicle class with the lowest annual fuel cost for the 2017 model year was the midsize car. Here, the range is only $500 per year.
2. Fuel costs by vehicle type
Conventional, gasoline-powered vehicles had the biggest range in annual fuel costs among model-year 2017 models, according to the 2017 Fuel Economy Guide, or $900 to $3,850 per year. Of course, this vehicle class also has the most models available.
The narrowest range and lowest annual fuel costs belonged to all-electric vehicles. These ranged from $500 to $800 per year. Meanwhile, hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), which use an electric drive train to boost not only fuel economy but also performance, had annual fuel costs ranging from only $600 (Hyundai Ioniq Blue) to $3,250 (Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta).
3. Fuel economy trends
Even as vehicle horsepower has jumped 120% from model year 1980 to 2016, and acceleration has improved 47%, fuel economy has still managed to grow 33% in this timeframe, according to the 2017 Fuel Economy Guide.
In 1980, fuel economy for a new light-duty vehicle was only 19.2 mpg. For model-year 2017 light vehicles, it was 25.6 mpg.
Fuel economy actually fell in the 1990s and early 2000s as vehicle weight grew, the report found. However, it has improved almost every year since 2004.