Think it might be time to switch to an electric vehicle? Actually, it might be well overdue. Whereas most electric cars now average 250 miles per charge and are going further all the time, for conventional fuel-powered vehicles, miles per gallon has remained relatively unchanged since 1923.
That’s according to a recent report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). Researchers focused on the performance of light-duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, vans and SUVS) between 1923 and 2013, and found that a tank of gas hasn’t taken modern Americans much farther than it did in the Jazz Age.
For the entire fleet of vehicles, the researchers wrote, “[f]uel economy decreased from 14.0 mpg in 1923 to 11.9 mpg in 1973.” The ‘73 Oil Crisis changed that, but not by much. “Starting in 1974,” they wrote, “fuel economy increased rapidly to 16.9 mpg in 1991. Thereafter, improvements have been small, with fuel economy in 2013 at 17.6 mpg.”
Oil prices started rising again in the mid-2000s, which pushed automakers to once again invest in better fuel economy. Yet even today, about half of new-car buyers in the US are buying vehicles that get less than 20 mpg, according to the University. Since 2008, fuel economy has improved only 4.5 miles per gallon between model years.
This is slated to change. Two years ago, President Obama announced new fuel-efficiency standards for the US fleet that were lauded by both environmentalists and the auto industry (something of a unicorn for the current administration). In order to cut oil consumption and reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, American-made cars and light trucks will be required to average 34.5 mpg by 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025.
“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” President Obama said in a statement.
The 54.5 mpg standard will apply to model years 2017 through 2025. However, The Detroit Bureau has pointed out that this goal isn’t quite as ambitious as it seems. It includes several credits and adjustments that will allow vehicles in the low-40 mpg range to comply with the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard.
Meanwhile, in France, the city of Paris wants to ban all cars registered before December of 1996 from the center of the city. The country is already offering €10,000 (about $11,300) to anyone who wants to trade a 10-year-old or older oil-burning vehicle for an EV.