The beginning of the new year brought a welcome piece of news. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that U.S. vehicle fuel economy achieved a record high in 2017, with new cars and trucks averaging 24.7 miles to the gallon. While it is heartening to see such progress being made, there is still a pressing need for growth and innovation in fuel efficiency technologies.
The EPA’s new figure applies only to new vehicles, for one, yet the most recent figures reported by Automative News reveal that the average age of vehicles on the roads in the United States is over 11 years (and rising). While many newer vehicles with greater fuel efficiency are being sold, the majority of those actually being driven fall far short of the EPA’s 24.7 mpg high water mark.
Worldwide, the effort to boost fuel economy is having variable success. While many European nations have made great strides towards increased fuel efficiency, evidence suggests a troubling discrepancy between test results and real-world fuel consumption that may indicate less progress than is ideal. In emerging economies such as China and India, fuel consumption is growing rapidly, and India is projected to surpass China with a 6 percent increase in consumption in 2018. Vehicles that prioritize fuel economy are available in these markets, but not to the lower-income populations who are now able to purchase vehicles and are driving the surge in traffic congestion and street-level pollution.
Advancements in electric vehicle technology and lighter, more efficient engines offer the promise of increased fuel efficiency and fewer harmful emissions, but more work musts be done to incentivize the innovation and adoption of fuel economy technologies worldwide.