While overall fuel economy was flat from 2014 to 2015, there’s some good news in the reports EPA issued this week. Consumers are buying bigger vehicles, which skews the average fuel economy number downward, but those bigger vehicles are more much efficient than their predecessors. The number of SUVs that get over 25 mpg has tripled since 2010, while the number of cars that get over 30 mpg has more than doubled, as seen in this chart from the Trends Report
Vehicle Models Meeting Fuel Economy Thresholds in MY 2010 and MY 2015
Thanks in large part to CAFE standards, consumers also have lots more efficient and alt-fuel choices than ever before. There are now over 20 electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, nearly all of which are new since model year 2010.
Advanced Technology and Alternative Fuel Vehicle Models in MY 2010 and MY 2015
In other good news, automakers are generally overcomplying with the GHG/fuel economy standards, by an average of about 1.5 mpg. As the Union of Concerned Scientists has documented, ten percent of the vehicles sold today are a full five or more years ahead of schedule, meeting regulatory targets for 2020 and beyond, including variants of six of the top 10 best-selling cars and trucks. Since modern CAFE targets are based on the “footprint” or size of the vehicle, and targets for trucks are less stringent than for cars, automakers are not penalized by selling more trucks or larger cars–their target slides with the actual vehicle sales mix.
Trucks and SUVs tend to be more expensive for consumers and profitable for manufacturers, so even if fuel economy is improving for larger vehicles, there are still economic reasons to opt for cars that suit passenger needs. But improving fuel economy across the fleet surely increases options for consumers, and given the current car buying frenzy for 2015, consumers are liking what they see.