The Obama administration announced initial rules that would raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 54.5 miles per gallon in the near future, but it isn’t as if automakers haven’t been attempting to increase the overall fuel economy of their cars without the heavy hand of government regulation.
Case in point: a newly released study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows that the average fuel economy of the new cars bought by consumers in January reached their highest levels ever, hitting 23.0 mpg.
The study has been calculating the average fuel economy of vehicles sold in the United States each month by taking the sales of cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks and their EPA estimated fuel-economy ratings. Researchers say they’ve been able to obtain fuel economy information on 99.8 percent of the cars purchased since October 2007.
In the four years since the the University of Michigan study began, there’s been a steady trend of improvement. In 2008, the average was just 18.9 miles per gallon. It improved to 19 miles per gallon in 2009, 20.7 in 2010 and 21.2 in 2011. That means cars sold in January 2012 are getting 4.1 miles per gallon more than models sold just four years earlier.
“The recent economic downturn, coupled with rising gas prices, has led to an increased interest in purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles,” says Brandon Schoettle, of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
And we’re sure consumers will appreciate the improvements in fuel economy when they hit the pumps, especially if gas prices rise throughout the spring and summer months, as they normally do.